TN29 by Tracey Neuls


Drop by Tracey Neuls x Tord Boontje


For an ex-shopaholic like me, I am now buying only about 10% of what I used to in a year. I spent years using shopping as a means of stress relief from work, and it was only when I started selling all my unwanted stuff on ebay that I realised how ‘insane’ I had been!

These days, I rarely buy fashion items on impulse, and even when I see something I love, I would walk away and wait a few days before deciding on whether I really want the item or not. Most of time, I would forget about it almost instantly after I walk away, so this tactic has proven to be quite successful and has saved me a lot of cash!

When I used the same tactic after trying on some cool shoes at the Tracey Neuls/ TN29 store, I eventually returned a week later because I love them THAT much!


tn29 shopIMG_3637GEEK SHOES


I have always been liked the TN29 collection for its quirkiness, but I thought they are slightly out of my price range ( I have also turned into a fashion cheapskate these days), so it was only during the sales period that I allowed myself to step into their very cool shop in Marylebone.

Within minutes, I fell in love with Geek Natural, a collaboration between Tracey and Dutch furniture designer, Tord Boontje, but was told that they had ran out of my size. The sales assistant then persuaded me to try the classic Brogue and the shockingly bright neon orange Geek ( both are their best sellers for many seasons). After trying them on, I was surprised by how comfortable they are… it was quite unexpected, but I struggled to decide and left the shop emptied-handed.

When I returned the second time, I left the shop with a lighter wallet ( well, not literally because I don’t usually carry so much cash on me) and the ‘brightest’ shoes I have ever bought in my life. When I got home, I had to console my guilt by reaffirming myself how ‘cool’ they look and that they will last for many years to come… It worked and my guilt disappeared almost instantly.





The Bruce Lacey experience

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The Bruce Lacey experience at Camden arts centre


I have heard of the eccentric British artist Bruce Lacey before, but I wasn’t familiar with his work until his exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre ( one of my favourite galleries in London which is not actually in Camden) back in the summer.

The exhibition was eye-opening and extraordinary, there were paintings and objects related to mythicism and ritualism, childhood memorabilia, graphic posters, videos clips of his live performances and even robots and machines all invented by the artist. The exhibition was co-curated by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, who also made a documentary on the artist with filmmaker Nick Abrahams.


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Graphics for ‘An evening of British Rubbish’, theatrical performances in the 50s


Last week, I attended the screen of “The Bruce Lacey experience” at the ICA with a Q & A with Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams. And like the rest of the audience, I couldn’t help but admire the artist’s eccentricity, passion, humour, creativity, his anti-establishment and ‘young at heart’ attitude to life. The 85-year old’s motto is “never lose the child within you”, and by the end of the documentary, you would be convinced that he does live by this and happily so.


the Bruce Lacey Experience – teaser 2 from nicholas abrahams on Vimeo.



Photography exhibitions in London

 world press photo 2012

Saving the desperate ‘bride’ by Li Yang, 3rd prize singles ( spot news) at World Press photo 2012


In the past few months, I have been busy visiting various photography exhibitions all over London. Finally, I feel that photography is being more ‘recognised’ as an art form, and it’s great to see so many major museums and galleries giving photography the prominent position it deserves.

I am a huge fan of photojournalism from decades earlier, I love the nostalgic black and white photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Bill Brandt, George Brassaï, Marc Riboud, Paul Strand, Lee Miller, and the list goes on. Unlike photography today which can be easily manipulated (even in photojournalism), photography from the golden era (1930s-60s) documented what was happening, and usually with strong narratives and objectivity, which often stir up the viewers’ emotions.

This season, I saw quite a few outstanding and thought-provoking exhibitions including:


Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s at Barbican – An exhibition full of powerful and historical photos by 12 key figures who recorded important world events during that period like the civil rights movement, Vietnam war, Cultural revolution and Cold war. The amazing range of works included the late Japanese photographer, Shomei TomatsuLi Zhensheng and Bruce Davidson, but I was particularly moved by the two South African photographers, David Goldblatt and the rather ill-fated Ernest Cole, a hero who used his skills to fight for what he believed in.

World press photo 2012 at South Bank Centre – A contemporary photojournalism contest, with many stunning and powerful images reminded us of the important and untold events that happened in the previous year including the Japanese tsunami, war in Libya and the mass shooting in Norway etc.


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Left: By Shaofeng Xu Right: North Korea by Damir Sagolj, 1st prize singles (daily life)


William Klein and Daido Moriyama at Tate Modern – An exceptional double retrospective of two great photographers of our generation, with over 300 photos capturing urban street life in New York and Tokyo since the 1950s. Almost all the photos were black and white, and many of which are raw, blurry, grainy and experimental. There were also typographic art and film extracts by Klein, showing the diversity of his skills. While Klein‘s work is more energetic and upbeat ( yet his films and documentaries are sarcastic and fun); Moriyama’s work is darker and more sinister, but still fascinating. I am not always a fan of Tate Modern’s exhibitions, but I really enjoyed this.


klein & Moriyama

klein & Moriyamatim walker


Tim Walker: Story telling at Somerset House ( until 27th January) – Moving away from photojournalism into fashion, but Walker‘s work is exciting, ambitious, surreal, dazzling, theatrical and full of dark humour. At the exhibition, many of his ‘larger than life’ ( literally!) size props are on display which allows the visitors to see the scale, mechanics and effort behind the photo shoots. Simply mind-blowing.

Shoot! Existential Photography at Photographer’s gallery – This was a surprisingly cool and fascinating exhibition that traced the history of the photographic shooting galleries at  fairgrounds and amusement parks after the First World War. I have never heard of this activity before the exhibition, which involves shooting the centre of a target, then a camera would be triggered and the participant would win a snapshot of him or herself in the act of shooting, as in a self-portrait.

Apparently this activity fascinated many famous people like Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Simone de Beauvoir, but the most amazing of all was the documentation of Ria van Dijk, a Dutch lady whose portrait was first taken at the age of 16 and has continued this activity until today, 76 years later! I am just surprised that why she hadn’t applied to be sniper in the army!

Best of all, at the end of the exhibition, visitors had the opportunity to take their own portraits in a photographic shooting gallery themselves!


existential photography

The mechanics behind the gun and camera…


Juergen Teller: Woo! at ICA ( until 17th March) – this new exhibition that just opened last week is going be a popular one especially with the fasionistas. But besides the images of celebrities and fashion models, there are works like Irene im Wald and Keys to the House that are more personal and subdued. His work is provocative, raw, confrontational, and unglamourous ( his style is almost the opposite from Tim Walker‘s), it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s definitely intriguing and unique.


Juergen TellerJuergen Teller


The exhibitions that could have been excellent but weren’t:

Seduced by art: photography past & present at National Gallery – I thought this exhibition was rather pointless and uninspiring. Yes, there were many interesting work ( including the photography below) but the link/ relationship between art and photography was not explored in depth and it didn’t do photography much justice either. As a viewer, I felt detached from what I saw and I left wondering what was it all about.


Maisie Maud Broadhead’s Keep Them Sweet


Light from the Middle East: New Photography at V & A ( until 7th April) – The subject matter of this exhibition is really interesting, but I felt slightly let down by the content. Again, for its lack of depth, it could have been more thought-provoking but instead it is rather ‘wishy-washy’, interesting enough but not much more.

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour at Somerset House ( until 27th Jan) – Probably like many others, I was misled by the name of this exhibition, expecting to see work by Cartier-Bresson. Instead I saw only 10 of them ( not his well-known ones), and the rest are works in colour by other photographers who were influenced by him. Some of them look rather ‘staged’ and I question the authenticity of these ‘street photography’. Sadly, there is not much to write home about.


Now I am looking forward to Man Ray Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery which will open next month. I am sure this will be very interesting, so don’t miss it!


London art fair 2013

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Main photo: Samara Scott’s painted carpet at The Sunday painter gallery


I can’t say I am a fan of art fairs, unless you know exactly what you are looking for or where to go, it can be an overkill going through aisles of art work, especially when the standards are so varied. After last year’s London art fair, I wasn’t planning to go to this year’s until I saw a curated tour with the London guided walk group, Fox & Squarrel.

The group regularly conducts guided walks on art, fashion, food, vintage, street photography. I have been to their art walk before and I enjoyed it because we were able to meet the curators at all the galleries we visited, which gave us a deeper perspective of the art work exhibited.

Due to the snow, not that many people showed up for the tour, and even at the fair, there seemed to be less people than last year, so much the better! The tour lasted about two hours and was led by Gareth who was also showing at the fair. He led us to several booths in the Art projects section, which was probably the most exciting part of the fair.


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Above: Francesco De Molfetta’s Snack Barbie.


Most of the galleries in this section were emerging or off the beaten track, so there were a lot of new and younger artists being represented here. We visited Limoncello, The Sunday painter, Hannah Barry and Edel Assanti, and heard from their representatives, which was a more interesting and in-depth way of understanding the galleries and the art work. After the tour, I had some time to wander around and I particularly enjoyed Photo50, the photography section on the top floor.


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With so many art fairs happening throughout the year in London, it’s almost impossible to run out of choices, so maybe doing a bit of research beforehand would be useful. As a visitor ( rather than buyer), I find the London art fair too commercial and conservative, so I would be interested to visit the more offbeat ones like Sunday Art Fair, The Other Art Fair or the new Art13 London, which aims to challenge Frieze Art Fair, the most ‘glamourous’ of all ( and the price reflects it too).

If you are like me who dislike large crowds and maze-like venues, then perhaps visiting your local art markets would be a better choice.


A day out in snowy London on foot

londonLondonsnowy london


Snow can be beautiful to look at but also a nightmare for commuters. The best time to enjoy the beauty of snow is during the first few days when it settles and before it turns muddy or dirty.

Yesterday, I attended a lunchtime talk on the fourth plinth and public art (see my previous post) with Antony Gormley, Professor John Hutnyk and Hugh Brody at the ICA. Afterwards, I suddenly had an urge to take the opportunity to enjoy the city which has been covered in a white blanket on foot…




I walked from the Mall towards Embankment, crossed the Thames via the Golden Jubilee bridge and when I reached Southbank, I noticed something quite interesting… By the Hayward gallery, there are some white structures ( all covered in snow) which made them look almost like ice sculptures, so I went inside the dome-like structure to see what was in it…



The Thames and Southbank


As I strolled along the river, there were couples walking and enjoying the free ‘romantic’ setting, dog walkers and even runners, while the atmosphere was calm and quiet. Eventually, I reached Tate Modern and went to see the current exhibitions, and when I left, it had already turned dark outside.

My last destination of the day was Barbican, so I crossed the Millennium bridge, walked past St Paul’s Cathedral and headed towards the Museum of London.




After an hour or so of classical music performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by China’s leading conductor, Long Yu, I headed back home ( by tube) feeling fulfilled even though my legs were quite tired by then!

Sometimes we spend so much time working indoor, rushing around without really appreciating the cities we live in, but it can be fun to spend half a day or a day acting like a tourist and observe the city from a different angle. You will be amazed by what you find or have been missing all this time while living there.


Hand stories by Yeung Fai

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Yeung Fai’s Hand stories at Barbican


Can a dying traditional art form be revived? With so many traditional art forms losing their appeal to the younger generation, new ideas and collaborations have to be injected to update and preserve these crafts from disappearing.

Hand stories is a puppetry play that combines traditional skills with contemporary lighting, video and sound effects. It is a autobiography of Yeung Fai ( a fifth generation Chinese puppeteer) and his family history; there is little dialogue throughout, but there is humour, sadness and exquisite skills with a political backdrop, which means this is unlikely to be performed in China.

The highlight of the show for me is the ‘behind-the-scene’ section, when the audience get a glimpse of what goes on off stage, yet we can also see what goes on on stage via a video projection. Though he most touching scene of the all is when Fai lights up the candle and passes it to his French assistant Yoann Pencole, symbolising the passing of his craft to a non-Chinese, non-family apprentice in order to keep the traditions alive (which rarely happens in China). This act, I think is crucial in keeping ancient traditions alive. if every craftsman insisted on keeping their ‘family secrets’ to themselves or family members who might not be intersted in carrying on the family traditions, then these art forms and crafts are most likely to extinguish soon or later.

The weakest part of the show is the angel/ rock ‘n’ roll section, which doesn’t seem to fit in with the overall tone but it’s still encouraging to see new grounds being explored. The political backdrop is highly significant but not over-powering, however, the most daunting aspect is knowing that Fai is one of the very few who managed to escape to tell the tales. How about the rest who didn’t? Presumably, many of the ancient arts and crafts were/ are lost forever.


AN extract of the play from Youtube


There are many countries that still value the art of puppetry and in various parts of Asia, efforts are put into preserving the heritage, crafts and skills of puppetry, but the place that has worked relentlessly to preserve ancient Chinese arts and crafts is not China but Taiwan.

If a non-Chinese person wants to learn and understand more about traditional Chinese arts and crafts, don’t bother heading to China, it is Taiwan where you can find a lot of the traditions being preserved and puppetry is one of them.


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Main & bottom left: The Puppet museum in Lisbon. Right:  Chang Yi Fang’s in Taipei


In Taipei, there is a Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum where you can visit permanent and temporary exhibitions, workshops and see performances at their theatre. There is also a Puppetry Art Centre of Taipei, an annual International puppet festival, theatre companies like Taiyuan Puppet Theatre Company and shops like Chang Yi Fang, all working towards making puppetry assessible to everyone including children and foreigners.

Like Fai mentioned in one of his interviews, his most memorable or emotional show experience happened in Taipei, not only because they spoke the same language but also the enthusiasm of the audience was quite overwhelming.

I sincerely hope to see more artists and craftsmen being able to pass on their skills and let the world appreciate the wonders of their arts and crafts.


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 Left & middle: Chang Yi Fang’s in Taipei. Right: Theatre museum in Helsinki


Yeung Fai Hand stories is part of the London International Mime festival and currently showing at Barbican until 19th January.


Fourth plinth

4th plinth

Powerless Structures by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset ( February 2012 – present))


For those who are unfamiliar with the ‘fourth plinth’, it is the a plinth in Trafalgar Square ( originally intended for a statue of King William IV) that has stood empty for over 150 years due to insufficient funds. But since 1999, it became the backdrop for temporary sculptures by contemporary artists. Over the years, there has been continuous debate over these art work and the most controversial being Antony Gormley’s One & Other ( 2009).

A total of 2,400 members of the public were selected and each spending an hour on the plinth over a hundred consecutive days. They were allowed to carry anything and do anything they wished to ( including being nude) on the plinth. A lot of people questioned the artistic value of this, but I thought it was daring, creative and very ‘London’ ( if there is such a term)! One of the most popular was Gerald Chong, who made a set of cardboard replica of the London skyline while dressed and performed in a Godzilla costume. You can watch his post on Youtube here.


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Yinka Shonibare: Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle ( May 2010 – January 2012)


Currently at the ICA, there is an exhibition showcasing more than 20 pieces of art work, including pieces that were shortlisted but didn’t make it by artists like Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor and Jeremy Deller. There is also the maquette of the forthcoming giant blue Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch ( see below).

One of the interesting part of the exhibition was to read the news clippings and quotes by artists and critics related to the fourth plinth. I especially like Marc Quinn‘s quote ( see below), whether people like these art pieces or not is beside the point, the fourth plinth actually sums up what London is about, it’s about diversity, freedom, tolerance, creativity, traditions, innovation and evolution.


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Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument at the ICA will end on 20 January.



See Red Women’s Workshop

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Coincidentally, after writing my previous blog entry, I saw an exhibition on See Red Women’s Workshop, an organisation fully committed to the ideals of the second wave feminist movement, and used graphics ( mainly screen prints) to explore and question the role of women in society from 1974 to 1990.

The screen-printing workshop designed and printed of their own posters, postcards, calendars, took on commissions and conducted talks and demonstrations on screen-printing. Their posters campaigned or raised consciousness on subjects such as sexuality, health, childcare, domestic violence, sexual equality, male sexist attitudes, treatment of women by the media, and oppression of women in a wider political context, both nationally and internationally.


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I love the strong, raw graphics and colours, in many ways, they remind me of the Soviet Propaganda posters. Apart from the eye-catching graphics, slogans like “So long as women are not free the people are not free” also deliver a powerful message. One of the funniest posters at the exhibition is a self-defence guide/ poster with the slogan, “Underneath every woman’s ‘curve’ lies a muscle!”. The poster lists parts of the women’s body (and bag) which could be used for self-defence and the ‘weakest’ parts of the men’s body which she could attack. Hilarious.


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see red women's workshopsee red women's workshop


When I was standing in front of the Margaret Thatcher poster, the women next to me commented, “Everything depicted in the poster is happening to us allover again…” And she is right, with all the budget cuts on public services and raising transport fares that is happening now, it’s like deju-va!

And slowly I left the venue feeling slightly wary of our future…


See Red Women’s Workshop at the ICA will end this Sunday on 13th January.




Dress for yourself

2013 is here and I have a sudden urge to change my personal style…

I consider my character to be quite tomboyish, but being a ‘tomboy’ is more about an inner attitude rather than the sexual orientation or appearance, and often people get confused by this term. Even when I was young, I hated wearing dresses or anything in pink, and I longed to be like the boys. During my teenage years, I wasn’t interested in boys from neighbouring schools, make-up nor other ‘girly’ activities, and so other girls at my all girl school started spreading rumour about my sexual orientation. This was extremely distressing for a 14/15 year old, and so I felt pressurised to conform, yet I never felt comfortable with it. When I eventually became one of the few female 6th form students in a boy school, I felt quite at home there. Finally I felt like I was one of the boys/lads and I had the best two years of my life there!

Then I went through a rebellious period in my mid 20s, and intentionally created an androgynous look with very short spiky hair and wearing mostly black/dark unisex outfits. I hung out with lesbian colleagues (I worked in the world of advertising!) or people who dressed similar as me. This made people wonder about my sexual orientation (again), it amused me but didn’t bother me much. I felt good about my ambiguous image, this was my quiet protest against the society’s mainstream/ stereotypical image of women.



Are you what you wear?


I am lucky that I have never had to work in a corporate environment, so I have always been able to dress for myself, but problems began to arise when I took up tango a few years ago. In the world of tango, how you dress definitely affects the chances of being asked to dance. I constantly felt out of place because I have never dressed to impress others/men before. Surrounded by women in seductive or glamourous outfits striving to catch the eyes of the opposite sex at milongas made me feel like I have been transported to a few centuries back in time. As much as I love the dance, the sexist and egocentric environment is a constant struggle that my strong-minded female friends and I have to deal with. Most of friends eventually gave up, while I continued to find ways to survive without feeling that I have betrayed myself! Recently, I started to switch role; learning to dance as a leader is very challenging but at least I don’t have to sit around all night ‘eyeing up’ men to ask me to dance. Meanwhile, I am also seeing more women leaders on the dance floor, which I think this is a healthier sign.

From what I observe through tango in different cosmopolitan cities made me realise that gender equality is still far from being a reality. I do not intend to compete with men, but I feel that women do not deserve enough respect from men and the society. When I heard about a poor young woman being gang raped on a bus in India; not only it triggered my anger and empathy, it also made me wonder if sexual objectification of women will ever end? I sincerely hope that her tragic death would eventually bring about positive changes in India, but as always, collective effort/ consciousness is needed to make a real impact.

You can sign the petition (on the link below) to the government of India to help end violence against women at

As an independent woman living in the West, I feel lucky that I have never had to ‘work’ on pleasing the opposite gender, but I have also experienced being ‘objectified’ in the past which utterly disgusted me. I know that many women still associate femininity and confidence with what they wear, yet I firmly believe it is an inner quality that should shine beyond what you wear.

As we get older, it’s not always easy to stay completely true to yourself, there are times when we have to conform or compromise for one reason or another. So if fashion is a personal statement or expression, then we should use this opportunity to stay true to ourselves and not dress for other people (this excludes religious dress codes). One of my new year’s resolutions is to strive to be as honest to myself as possible, which is easier said than done.

As for my new look in 2013, I will say goodbye to my hair and welcome the return of the less feminine short hair again. However, I no longer feel the need to create an image or make a statement because comfort is my priority these days, and I will continue to live by the motto – dress for yourself.