My piece for SUITCASE magazine: Back to the Source of Beauty in Bordeaux

SUITCASE magazine is one of my favourite travel publications, so I was honoured when the editor asked if I would review Les Sources de Caudalie for them last month. It was also my first time travelling by Eurostar (very cool) and I had my first ever facial (very fancy). I used to live in France (twice) so it was great to be back. God I miss those baguettes.

You can read the piece here. Every single photo used is one of my own (pretty chuffed about that).

 

Dojo Arts Radar: 7th September

Dojo Arts Radar: 7th September

Artists draw inspiration from the wonderfully bizarre to the cripplingly mundane. This week we have an eclectic mix; crummy old portraits, a beloved Irish poet and… dirty chlorine water? Julie Cockburn reinvents vintage photos with a modern twist, the Wellcome Collection explore the importance of graphic design and Jealous Gallery are putting on a whole exhibition dedicated to swimming pools. And, never seen before in the UK, Studio Voltaire exhibit a heartbreaking collection. You’ve got to hand it to the London art crew, you never know what’s coming next.

 

Julie Cockburn at Flowers Gallery 
Embroidery interventions

Cockburn describes her work as ‘collages’, but this really doesn’t do them justice. She begins by hunting for vintage 1940s-1970s photos of poised strangers, heading to junk shops and occasionally diving into skips. Then she builds upon these nostalgic black and white images with meticulous embroidery, requiring serious nimble handywork.

Cockburn’s intrusive textile blotches hide faces and interrupt our view of the sitter. She calls these her ‘interventions’, which challenge the idea of femininity and explores our personal connection to the handmade versus cheap mass production. This exhibition is a must-see; all about memory and a yearning to regain our old approach to photography, her work harkening back to before the #nofilter age.

 

Bartholomew Beal at The Fine Art Society 
Literature Interpretations

‘Literature always gives me an extra reason to paint and a good point to start at.’

I mean, that, and Beal loves painting pensive bearded men, so naturally for this exhibition he chose Seamus Heaney and his white wisps. Beal has been exhibiting since the ripe old age of 24, as the son of two English teachers he is known for translating canon literature (such as TS Eliot and Shakespeare) into stunning visual interpretations.

For this exhibition Beal represents various scenes from three Heaney poems, mainly showing wrinkly guys donning flat caps and crumpled shirts. Many of the figures seem to remain unfinished with maimed torsos and missing limbs, floating around in blocks of saturated colour. Often compared to Francis Bacon, Beal is one to watch and this collection shivers and jolts with energy.

Putti’s Pudding at Studio Voltaire 
Dual Force of Creativity

Cookie Mueller was pretty damn cool; as an actress, writer, art critic, author, fashion connoisseur and Nan Goldin’s muse, she was the ultimate ’80s New York icon. In this exhibition Studio Voltaire showcase her ‘final project’ made in collaboration with her husband, artist Vittorio Scarpati, during their tragic battle with AIDS.

Whilst in hospital, Scarpati and Mueller put together ‘Putti’s Pudding’; a book made up of Mueller’s creative writing snippets accompanied by Scarpati’s drawings. These self-portraits marked a final attempt for the pair to take back control; they refused to be remembered by other’s work. Produced at a time when Scarpati had lost the ability to speak, his art was his only form of communication. As a UK first, this poignant exhibition of dual force is proof that having a creative outlet can soothe even in the darkest of times.

 

 

Swimming Pools at Jealous Gallery
Transient waters

We all know and love Hockney’s swimming pools, recognised as backdrops for tanned adonises in the ’60s soaking up the sun in LA. But since then, many artists have used these transient waters as their own symbol of summer thrills, sometimes with a threatening edge.

This new exhibition invited various artists, illustrators, photographers, street artists and printmakers from the UK and US to present their version of the faithful swimming pool. Our favourites include Graurab Thakali’s abstract waves, Tyler Spangler’s fluorescent ripples and Yigi Özden’s scummy tiles. Now that summer’s over, you may as well head along to this one and imagine you’re back on the poolside, because we can’t promise you’ll be sunbathing anytime soon.

 

Anna Jung Seo at The Stone Space
Intimate human encounters

We all love a nosy people-watch and this exhibition grants us a peek into various human relationships through paintings of everyday scenes. By observing daily encounters on her street, Anna Jung Seo gives us a glimpse into intimate and awkward moments between couples sharing whispers, huddling, colliding or embracing.

But our voyeuristic view is blocked by Jung Seo’s choice of frustratingly small-scale pieces, made up of lashings of paint that blur the images. Jung Seo is fascinated with the idea of distance and she definitely doesn’t let us get too close; the effect is maddening but totally intriguing.

 

Dojo Arts Radar: 31st August

Dojo Arts Radar: 31st August

The London art world has spent the summer in a slumber and we’re itching for the autumn exhibition season now the curators have recovered from their champagne hangovers. September brings a whole host of arty extravaganza, from volcano ash to psychedelic textile wallhangings, sugar infused oil paintings and bizarre hybrid beasts. Before you hit these up, double check the opening date, or you eager beavers could be left wailing on the gallery doorstep, and that could be awkward.

 

Emma Stibbon: Volcano at Alan Cristea 
A contingent landscape

Feeling sensitive from the weekend’s drinking? Beware: this exhibition may leave you feeling small and insignificant. Stibbon spent some time hanging around active volcanoes in Hawaii, before returning to the UK to work on this collection of monochromatic works, made using ink, watercolour and even volcanic ash to depict these dormant fire breathing monsters.

Stibbon worked from photographic records of eruptions and rivers of molten lava to create these stark and lonely landscapes, capturing the sense of impending doom and momentary beauty. Her monumental woodblock print, ‘Caldera Overlook,’ depicts a lush rainforest glowing under the warmth of a volcanic crater, serving as a positive reminder that it ain’t all that bad. Ish.

 

Cig Harvey: Holding the Blue at Beetles & Huxley
Mysticism in the mundane

‘I want my photographs to be a jolt. They explore a magic in the world while having one foot very much placed in reality’.

Next time you’re feeling a little swamped by the metropolis, try to channel Harvey who has an uncanny ability to find ‘mysticism in the mundane’. A true visual storyteller, Cig Harvey is an East Coast photographer known for her surreal images of family life in the countryside.

Her raw, heightened awareness of nature translates into mesmerising, ethereal portraits where we see the crushing of scarlet berries, sun dappled skin, and playful interactions with butterflies and violet petals. A sensory experience, this exhibition demonstrates how humans can have a delicate connection with nature without damaging it – bound to inspire some running through wheat fields, or something.

 

Hybrid at Purdy Hicks
Exploring Human Complexities

We’re all hybrids in our own, special kinda way, but this exhibition goes a little further than that. Recalling stories of half-human, half-animal creatures, this collection of works by female artists explores the complexities of human nature and the many contradictory quirks which have come to define us.

It’s the hybridity between subject and artistic medium which is especially salient here – like Alice Maher’s use of dainty watercolours to depict unnerving monsters, Sally Smart’s use of materials associated with ‘female craft’ to unravel gender roles, or Nilbar Güreş’s collages that investigate the awkward merging of place, gender, and social politics. A varied bunch and a strange mix, but the clue’s in the title really.

Marcia Kure

 

Richard Stone: Everywhen at Kristin Hjellegjerde
A call to movement

When we think of sculptures, fluidity might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but Richard Stone has a knack for manipulating movement in rigid bronze and marble. Swirling birds mid-flight, a crumpled flag and figures in flux all add to the sense that we’re witnessing a unique fleeting moment. Stone’s paintings accompany his sculptures, depicting scenes of ‘English dreaming’, from a forest’s rippling light to spitting sea spray, tumbling autumn leaves, winding ivy and solid oak trees.

Our favourite is ‘Holding on to the end of history’; a well thought-out mess comprising two dynamic bird forms clashing beaks but preening feathers, representing love, hate and life all at once. So don’t just stand there looking dumbfounded, off you go.

 

Suzan Frecon at David Zwirner 
The quiet of colour

Have you been zipping around elbowing tourists all day? We have the cure to help you slow down and switch off. Frecon is the master of the slow artistic process and this exhibition invites the visitors to slither from one sleepy piece to the next, treating the whole collection as a meditative experience.

A kind of winey Rothko, Frecon is able to make a booming effect simply with one or two shapes – often arches – and a basic colour palette with natural, soothing tones. Trust us – it works. You can easily spend hours here so we recommend going by yourself so you can zone out and delve deep into the quiet of colour.

 

From Folkestone to Cornwall at Highgate Contemporary Art 
Gritty textual effects

We might associate the English coast with drizzly family holidays and failed camping trips but these artists have drawn huge inspiration from our tepid seas. This exhibition explores how two artists have translated our rugged landscapes into abstract canvases laden thick with paint and texture.

It seems Sam Peacock looks no further than his kitchen cupboard when finding materials as he builds layers upon layers of ground coffee, liquorice and sugar, all blended together with oil paint. Hannah Ivory Baker’s landscapes are also multilayered, awash with loose, frantic marks, creating earthy charcoal vistas full of depth and atmosphere. Both artists produce a gritty textural effect, so you’ll want to go and gawp in person.

Samantha Bittman: Shift at the Ronchini Gallery 
Revealing visual phenomena

We love any art that sends our head in a spin, and these textile optical illusions from Samantha Bittman will leave you deliciously dizzy. Through a fascinating creative process, all of Bittman’s pieces are weaved by hand before she embeds acrylic onto each thread, merging textile and paint to create kaleidoscopic wall pieces that will draw you in.

Taking inspiration from the great Agnes Martin, this exhibition asks: ‘How much do we really assimilate everyday?’ Creating a consuming experience, Bittman wants to reveal visual phenomena without gimmicks, using basic shapes, symmetrical layouts, and pared-down colour palettes. A real workout for the old eyeballs, this exhibition tests our ability to really digest what’s in front of us.

 

New role at Dojo: Freelance Arts Editor

I’ve landed a new role at Dojo as Freelance Arts Editor. If you haven’t heard of the app, check out this article about how three Bristol grads raised £800k to launch it. Their tone is unlike any other event listings website/app as the content team write like your best friend nattering at you down the pub, telling you what you just have to go see.

For this role I will be researching and writing up exhibitions every week and curating the ‘Arts Radar’ round-up. August is quiet, so here are a couple to look forward to in September:

 

Stour Space – Nasty Women

Beware the power of social media; this art movement began with an impromptu Facebook rant in New York that read: “Hello female artists/curators! Let’s organize a NASTY WOMEN group show!!! Who’s interested???’ Now with over 40 events across the globe, Nasty Women aims to tackle modern day misogyny with a collective extravaganza of creativity.

The bras were burnt long ago and we’re still fuming so Stour Space invited “any woman with an opinion” to channel their anger around the current political climate by lashing out through any art media of choice. The 100 works include a VR room, photography, ceiling installations, paintings and live drawing, with 100% of the profits going to End Violence Against Women. Some pieces cost as little as a London pint, so there’s really no excuse not to pop along.

 

Barbican – Basquiat: Boom for Real

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an artist with a cooler black book of contacts than Basquiat who once collaborated with Warhol and Bowie, appeared in Blondie’s video and even went out with Madonna (before she was Madonna). With a soaring career unlike any other, Basquiat started out as the homeless graffiti poet SAMO by plastering downtown 1970s New York with wild street art and is now cited as Kanye and Jay-Z’s muse.

This unique exhibition explores the Neo-Expressionist’s insatiable childlike fascination with the creative process from doodling to rapping to jazz or biology. Basquiat’s artistic evolution is told through 100 harrowing artworks, many of which have never been seen before in the UK, including a delicate reconstruction of the first piece he ever exhibited. Many interpret his nightmarish cartoon skulls and manic scribbles as anger towards America or maybe they’re the result of his heroin induced frenzy, we’ll let you decide.

Aesthetica piece: Emotive Architecture – An homage to timber

Swedish architect firm White Arkitekter has won a commission to build the tallest timber building in the Nordic countries. The project marks an important milestone in sustainable urban development and pays homage to the region’s traditional local timber heritage.

For nearly two decades, White Arkitekter has invested in establishing a unique research-based organisation of highly qualified experts in the field of sustainable design.The winning Skellefteå Cultural Centre proposal was chosen from 55 entries in 10 countries. Set for completion in 2019, the wood framed 10-story high-rise will contain a theatre, museum, art gallery, library and a new hotel in the heart of the city of Skellefteå. Architect Oskar Norelius states that this project demonstrates how “sustainability is more than just the environment, it is also the social, economic and cultural aspects of sustainability.”

Architect firms have had to adapt their approach to urban design due to the changing nature of busy city landscapes and the fickle needs of their dwellers. The growing popularity of temporary architecture, such as pop-up pavilions, represents a demand for agile buildings to fit a variety of functions. Oskar Norelius of White Arkitekter states that “the belief that we can create a masterplan that will last for generations is an outdated way of seeing things.” The Skellefteå centre has design elements that follow this theme of flexibility of use, such as retractable walls for rooms to be expanded or divided so as to better serve the function at hand – from an exhibition to a large congress. By bringing wood back into the core of the city, this will result in a more liveable, malleable space. As Oskar Norelius believes, “the structure in Skellefteå is rational and robust, but being in wood it has an inherent warmth and human scale. By leaving the structure apparent throughout the building, the spaces get the character of a culture factory, where you can still feel at home.”

For this project, one of the challenges for White Arkitekter is to present a building that offers both robust functionality and appealing aesthetics. A key goal is to improve the appearance of Skellefteå’s city centre and thus concrete, despite its benefits, is not as appealing as the earthy appearance of timber panels. Furthermore, by using only local wood of the highest quality, the centre will stand as a proud symbol of the region’s unique timber industry, whilst also generating an economic boost for the local suppliers. The timber skeleton will be left exposed throughout the building as a reminder of its origin and Swedish tradition; a foundation built from local natural resource and dedicated labour.  Architect Robert Schmitz states: “In a way, I would say that we never design an individual building. We always reflect on the impact of the context, and what possibilities the building can unlock in its surroundings.” Therefore, showcasing the structure creates a candid sphere in which the public can understand the dynamics of the building and see the mechanics behind its careful, thoughtful construction. The centre is also designed to endure Sweden’s harsh weather with an efficient energy consumption record and a green roof that contributes to thermal insulation, noise blocking, biodiversity and rain water absorption.

The city of Skellefteå is surrounded by dense forests and the region is renowned for its wooden buildings and excels in sustainable forest management – a vital component for well-maintained forests in order to reduce the risk of forest fires. The region’s timber industry creates jobs for the local community and these fine-tuned timber construction techniques range from traditional methods to modern technology. The choice of timber in this new building reflects and celebrates Skellefteå’s local timber industry; every piece of wood is locally sourced and selected with the local community in mind. As Oscar Norelius explains, “we need to bring people closer to the urban project, and involve them in the process.”

The success of this sizeable construction will demonstrate that a complex wooden multipurpose building does not imply a compromise on spatial qualities. New types of engineered timber that are considerably stronger and more stable than regular wood are now an option in a much wider range of projects across the world making timber skyscrapers – or “plyscrapers” – a real prospect. Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is produced by layering glued timber sections of wood at right angles and this can be prefabricated in a factory to any shape or dimension. CLT is also much lighter than steel and concrete and takes 50 per cent of the time to construct. With climate change now the main consideration of any new architectural endeavour, timber or timber-steel hybrids are quickly becoming materials of choice. Despite their reliability and durability, the production of steel and concrete is hugely energy demanding and they each have significant carbon footprints. The ever growing populations in swollen cities means there’s now more demand than ever for housing in dense urban areas and a safe yet environmentally-friendly alternative is needed. Of course the essence of wood as a raw material is entirely natural but architects have had to invent ways to manipulate the organic form to ensure a stronger, more durable and fire-resistant variant. Most successful timber buildings so far have involved a steel-timber hybrid, which have eased worries over fire hazards and therefore excessive insurance costs. As Oscar Norelius confirms: “the introduction of wood in larger scale allows us to shape a construction industry to complement the heavier materials that is suited not only to create efficient and low cost construction, but also buildings and spaces for people.”

Our archaic loyalty to concrete is being challenged by contemporary alternatives due to the  wasteful and inefficient nature of the mixing process. From the very beginning of its form, creating concrete entails excessive water waste and once the material has served its function, used concrete is very difficult to dispose of. In contrast, when wooden building materials need to be deconstructed they are often repurposed or recycled into new products. However, compared to concrete, wood has not previously been considered as suitable for creating general spaces for flexible use, but it opens up the possibility of changing and developing the building in the future. Robert Schmitz, an architect at White Arkitekter, explains that “the life-span of a building is no longer defined by the durability of the structure, but by its ability to adapt to changing needs.”

It has been suggested that this age-old flair in wooden construction methods is largely due to Sweden’s essential pragmatism during the country’s notorious freezing winters. Historically, the ready availability of quality wood in Sweden meant it was the low-cost material of choice for house building, which can explain this long tradition in Sweden’s construction sector. More recently, the favouritism of wood in architectural practices has also been linked to Sweden’s dedicated, fervent environmental activism.

Sweden was the first of the Scandinavian countries to change building regulations to favour wood in 1994, which previously prohibited the construction of wooden houses with more than two stories. In 2010, Finland also changed its building code, meaning wooden buildings could reach up to eight storeys for the first time.The 2015 Finlandia Prize-winning Puukuokka apartment building is the tallest of its kind in the country; an all-CLT structure covered in a fire-resistant coating. Similarly in Sweden, fire regulations have previously limited the use of wood as a material in large scale constructions but now these regulations have eased and we are seeing a booming new building sector. In 2004, a national strategy for “more wood in construction” was implemented, which strives to support innovation and experimentation within this field. This manifesto stipulates that with these new regulations, wood should be a self-evident material alternative in all constructions in Sweden within ten to fifteen years. Objectives of this new strategy include the creation of different types of wood (therefore increasing competition in the market); developing more jobs in the timber industry; keeping carbon dioxide emissions to a minimum by avoiding the use of concrete and steel; and encouraging new types of treated wood to be brought to the market. Unlike other countries in Europe, this demonstrates Sweden’s unique cooperation between the public sector, industry and academics, all striving for the same goal in architectural innovation. Oskar Norelius states: “building in timber generates new questions that have to be resolved, but it also brings inherent answers to questions we have been confronted with when working with other materials in the past.”

These architectural practices in Sweden have sparked what has been called “the timber age”, which is revolutionising architectural practice across the globe. Similar projects in innovative urban development are taking place in the UK and beyond. White Arkitekter have undertaken a project in the Faroe Islands called The Eyes of Runavik; the winner of Nordic Built Cities in the Vertical Challenge category, 2016.  This three storey building will be built using timber construction and even local sheep wool, where residents can keep emissions to a bare minimum over a long period. In 2015, London firm Hawkins Brown completed a 33-metre-high apartment block in Shoreditch named ‘The Cube.’ The 10-storey residential building was constructed using a hybrid structure that is primarily CLT, but also integrates steel elements and a reinforced-concrete core. East London architect firm Waugh Thistleton’s new Dalston Lane project uses timber in high-density urban housing and is putting East London firmly on the map as a world leader in timber construction. The ten-storey 121-unit residential development (currently under construction) is made entirely of CLT and weighs a fifth of a concrete building of the same size; this material reduces the number of deliveries during construction by 80 per cent. This groundbreaking use of timber technology has significantly reduced the carbon footprint of the building in terms of both material production and on-site time and energy consumption.

Thanks to Sweden’s steadfast dedication to sustainable architectural innovation and courageous experimentation in this field, architect firms across the world are now factoring timber into their visions of the future. Priorities in construction have transformed from grand, artistic statements to an emphasis on practicality, ultimately to increase a building’s longevity: its agility as well as its strength. Robert Schmitz concludes: “apart from the impact construction itself has on the climate, architecture affects how we live. Our vision is to create architecture with people in focus, inspiring a sustainable way of life. We at White Arkitekter measure our success by the quality of our projects and ultimately the difference we make for people by creating emotive architecture.”