Japan Calling

IMG_0390“I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m on holiday, not in Maida Vale” I said to The Brunette – my dinner companion for the evening. Contemplating the decor of our newest local restaurant  immediately imbued a sense of relaxation and calm. Dark wood, mirrored strips on walls – a nod to Japanese lacquer – minimal tables and a soupçon of light jazz to be heard in the background provided the comfort of the traditional with the frisson of the new.

A Gordon Ramsey type restaurant this isn’t.  If you’re after cooks shouting orders: ‘SERVICE! NOW!!’ you won’t find it here. Instead, sitting up at the kitchen bar – possibly the most action packed location of any restaurant – Ken and Masato Nezu noiselessly and respectfully went about their business creating exquisitely simple, wonderful to behold dishes.

fullsizeoutput_27a0Manners maketh man and most certainly add to the enjoyment of dinner out on a Wednesday night.  Politely we were asked what we’d like to drink.  We discussed the options with Toru the owner: “Try the sparkling Sake” he told us, “It’s light, not too strong, I think you’ll be okay.” He was right; gently floral, the colour of effervescent water it was to be relished for itself rather than any unwanted effects.

IMG_0377We took our food recommendations from Ken: “This is nothing special” he repeatedly told us. Yellowtailed carpaccio with truffle oil, grilled asparagus with sesame dressing defined with threads of chilli as a starter told us otherwise.

Venturing into the territory of the mains our reactions seemed to surprise him; but when sushi and sashimi plates are this good it’s hard not to express delight. The smoked eel sushi took me out of my comfort zone into a new level of enjoyment. This is not the challenging eel of cockney lore, rather a super tender smokey hot mouthful with the delicate crunch of cucumber, wrapped in rice so good the entire experience was synergy personified.

Finishing up with sesame and Yuzu fruit ice cream followed by a cup of Genami tea, Toru gave us some backstory: “Our chefs are from a sushi family, we invited them from Nobu. It is an art to create this food.  In Japan an apprentice doesn’t touch the fish for three years – they just watch. How you cut the fish alters the flavour; knives have to be sharp. How you press the rice requires just the right amount of pressure; the temperature is vital. Everything has to come together – into one. It takes time.

We left ‘Japan’ light but replete, warmed but refreshed: “How appropriate that two friends from choir should have such a harmonious evening” The Brunette remarked as the Murasaki team bade us ‘Good Night.’

Many thanks to Toru, Ken, Masato Nezu, Piyumi and Kauri for a delightful evening. Murasaki, 12 Lauderdale Road, London W9

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A Conversation Piece

peter-lanyon-witness-1961

‘Witness’ by Peter Lanyon. *

January. Not the easiest month to make a break for it and get out there. However, a kind invitation to an evening at Home House with René Gimpel from the renowned West End Gallery debating all things art collecting roused my curiosity.

His talk was gently informative and afterwards his answers to the assembled audience on questions ranging from “What’s the difference between cinema and video art?” to “Should I buy Keith Haring now?” were compassionate and eloquent.  “Anyone can become an expert – that’s the great thing about art” he stated, “You just have to enter into the conversation.”

The mood in the elegant drawing room was relaxed and energised. The chat flowed amongst cushy sofas and soft lighting: The aftermath of a season of goodwill infused with some urgency of new year intent.

I approached René, curious to learn more:  “Did you see Bowie’s collection at Sotheby’s?” I asked – somewhat naively.
Rene looked at me, as a smile came to his lips. “Yes, he was a client of ours. I’ve got a lovely story about him if you’d like to hear it.”

My excited expression prompted the tale:

“Well, he came to me in the 80’s.  He was interested in starting to collect art. He wanted to learn everything about it. He told me of a particular Peter Lanyon painting he liked and asked if I could get it for him. So, I rang Sheila, Peter’s wife, and she sent it up.  Bowie came in and I took him down to the basement to fetch the picture.  It was dark and dusty so I offered to bring the painting up to the gallery.  ‘No, let’s just sit here and look at it’ he said, motioning to the stairs.

We sat on the steps and contemplated the piece in silence for some time.

After a while he pointed to the right side of the picture and said: ‘It’s got a tyre mark on it’.  I looked at it aghast and thought – gosh that’s my eyesight; I knew Peter kept his pictures in the garage at home and immediately thought he’d backed into it. I started to apologise, but he interrupted me and said: ‘No, no, this is the one I wanted: Peter ran over it deliberately – he thought it looked better that way.’

I introduced him to high art collectors and those in the middle – he was particularly interested in the latter and I remember a trip to Richmond with him to visit one. He was extremely knowledgeable about modern British art – hence his knowing of Peter’s ‘tyre’ painting” he concluded.

I basked in the warmth of the story, reluctant to leave my place on the stairs at Gimpel Fils with René and Bowie; such edifying company on a freezing cold winter’s night.

* ‘Witness’ by Peter Lanyon. Dated April 1961. From the BOWIE/COLLECTOR sale at Sotheby’s, London, November 2016. Image copywrited to Sotheby’s.

 

Kenzo Tiger

img_3979I woke surrounded by Tiger print.  Red and pink Tiger print.  Had it all been a dream? A glance at the receipt and an inspection of photos on my phone said otherwise.

A delightful invitation to a preview of Kenzo for H&M had me planning every minute of the week (not to mention a year in advance) beforehand with my plus one.  For a diehard long term committed fan of the H & M annual fashion designer collaboration, this one had special resonance: An opportunity not to get up at 5am and queue for days to be first in line, plus the fact that Kenzo, one of the 80’s designers has a special place in my heart.   Always just beyond reach of my shoulder padded purse in those heady days, would H&M work their magic on this designer brand’s less acute following in the last couple of decades and up the ante again?

Continue reading “Kenzo Tiger”

Frieze!

img_3756I tweeted H: ’Unfortunately it’s sold, so I can’t get it for you.’
‘Where is his nose?’ came the response. I ignored the question, after all a bust of this Hellenistic King from mid century BC was bound to come a cropper at some point in the last few centuries.

Frieze Masters hosted this fine piece of art along with many others of repute and fame, their makers well established in art history vernacular. From Picasso to Bonnard, Dali to Louise Bourgeois, these were all artists we can agree on as having made it. The elite hush of this particular part of Frieze held a reverence indicative of solemn recognition and certain provenance, to say nothing of sky high prices.

Across a cooling October park lay Frieze London.

I headed to the bathrooms, noting that Julie Verhoeven was performing a piece of her art there entitled ‘The Toilet Attendant … Now Wash Your Hands’. One of many works this year with a message cloaked in humour.

A blue strip of carpet led to the ladies, a pink to the mens. Once that initial confusion was dealt with I entered to the usual set up save a few trolleys dotted about laden with the tools of a loo attendant’s trade.  I spied the artist suitably dressed in the latter’s regalia.

‘I just want you to know, I’ve washed my hands’ I said.
‘But did you put the loo seat down?’ she asked, ‘It’s amazing how many people don’t.’ ‘Well, that could be because they’ve become confused by the blue and pink carpet. Perhaps you would find that if you went into the mens all the loo seats would be resting in situ between visits.’
‘Ha!’ she replied. ‘Maybe.’

Through the fair I wandered, stopping in my tracks for some pieces, marvelling at them, rendered mute by others such were the thoughts and feelings provoked.

I heard my name being called:  An old acquaintance from the 90’s, and art collector. I told him about Julie’s work.  ‘Did she ask you for a pound? Is that how artists are making money these days?!’ he laughed.

The question’s answer is potentially the same as it was in mid century BC as it may be in 50 years; a benefactor, menial work or connections – the way the pendulum swings dependent on our appetite for and willingness to appreciate another narrative to our daily lives.

Frieze Art Fair until 9th October, Regent’s Park, London.

Norte and South

IMG_3249I’ve long been fascinated by graffiti and street art – from days of New York living where the subways trains rattled past spray-painted with a thousand colours.  By whom, I used to wonder, and when and how? The mystery of incognito people decorating vehicles and walls in the dead of night or when no one was looking intrigued me.

Fast forward to August 2016 and the opening of ‘Norte and South’ an urban art exhibition at Atzaró hotel in Ibiza, and it’s clear things have developed in that world.  Possibly the most beautifully situated luxury boutique hotel in Ibiza annually hosts a show of street artists whose work now fetches none too shabby prices, and adorn the walls of the most high spec villas and homes. In short – it’s moved from the outside in.

The artists’ names indicate anonymity: Sixe, Inkie, Vinz, Miss Van are some that together with the use of masks in many of the paintings perpetuate the theme of mystery and secrecy necessitated by illegal street painting.

I asked Inkie what the difference was between a graffiti artist and a street artist. “Grafitti is about making your mark by spray painting surfaces freehand – then you tag (sign) it – to show you’ve been there.  It’s a territorial thing.  If someone graffitis over an existing piece on a wall somewhere – there’s gonna be trouble..”

So far so understood.  But what about street art? “Well, that’s work produced using stencils and print.  It’s more iconic image based work.” I was getting the gist.
“And your name?” I asked, “Inkie?”
“You know, it’s like an ink fingerprint.”

It was all making perfect sense, until I spotted the magnificent ‘Dimensions’ by Sixe Paredes. Continue reading “Norte and South”

Ms Georgia O’Keeffe

P1080066The last time I got tearful at an exhibition was The V&A’s Alexander McQueen show.  Today at the new Tate Modern’s sensitively and sublimely curated exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, it happened all over again.  And then some.

Rounding the corner of one of the first rooms I came face to face with ‘Music – Pink and Blue No. 1’.  This was the catalogue cover of my first, and until this day, only viewing of Ms O’Keeffe’s art in the flesh as it were.  That was in 1987, just a year after she died.

A flood of memories surfaced; living in New York and then Washington D.C. where the show had taken place at the National Gallery of Art. Tears pricked my eyes.  Her powerful and confident strokes of both paint and charcoal reveal a determined character:  Determined and dedicated to being true to herself.

In her own words, quoted on the introduction to each room in this exhibition she comes across as a woman of single mind and focus.  I could say ‘person’ here, and many of the often cited quotes on her work refer to her as a great ‘woman’ painter which she famously railed against, saying ‘The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I’m one of the best painters’. However, only a female artist could say: ’Of course I was told it was an impossible idea – even the men hadn’t done that well with it’ on painting the New York landscape.

She knew she was up against it to be taken seriously as a woman who made art, and nothing less than 100% of herself would do.

Through showing such an extraordinary variety of her work in this exhibition, the Tate seeks primarily to champion O’Keeffe’s own insistence that her work was not overtly sexualised, that every flower and landscape she painted had little to do with sexuality and in particular the female body.

It’s largely succeeded in this mission, but there’s no getting away from the fact that there is an inherent sensuality and almost erotic like quality imbued within her paintings in particular – whether they be of New York skyscrapers or clouds floating beneath blue skies.  Nature was such a source of inspiration to her, and that in its most basic form is reproduction – in all that is created.

The final rooms hosting her paintings from New Mexico stirred up emotion again. The ruthless and unrelenting desire to demonstrate clarity and one’s own truth is particularly piercing in the Pelvis series and the paintings of her Abiquiú house. The sense imparted is of an infinite search for oneself, to strip back all that doesn’t matter and reach the core:  ‘I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only woman can explore’ she once said.

Her love of nature and the nature of love, in particular for oneself, is imbued in all Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. She just couldn’t help herself. P1070963
‘My Last Door’ Georgia O’Keeffe.  Portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz.

Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern 6 July – 30 October 2016.

Inside and Outside

P1070862They informed me at the Press Office that I might be able to have a few words with Bjarke Ingels, architect of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion.  I’d read about the unzipped wall and wondered how it would compare to past years’ structures.

I was also super keen to ask him about the unzipping part:  In conceiving of these staggered cubes undulating from narrow to wide creating a different view from every angle, had he thought it male or female?  Had he thought of no gender whatsoever? Are structures/buildings usually referred to as ‘she’ or is that just for sea vessels? I felt it could be an interesting conversation.

Walking through Hyde Park to get there, raindrops fell from tree branches, soft landings on my top, rippling outwards to create the occasional water mark.

Wandering in past the gallery, I moved slowly through the crush of people by the 2016 Pavilion. Wine gasses in hands, bottles of beer, interesting spectacle frames – coloured and otherwise surrounded me. ‘Isn’t it great to be out’ I overheard someone remark. Indeed it was, after a day of downpours the sun had finally granted us an audience, enabling outdoor pursuits once more and now setting on a city yearning for summer.

Continue reading “Inside and Outside”

Highlights and a Chelsea Blow Dry

IMG_1997Pinter. Harold Pinter. The name says tension to me and a play fraught with awkwardness, strain, characters stretched to breaking point.  I wasn’t sure I could handle a second one in as many months, but theatre invitations are rather lovely and it would be a hard woman that could say ‘no’.

I gasped as I entered The Old Vic to take my seat – grand and imposing and absolutely packed to the rafters. V’s programme lay on my lap with no time to read as the final bell sounded and this evening’s performance of The Caretaker was off.

As the curtain raised, like a projected image, the set moved towards us and we were there; back in some dingy Pinteresque bedroom with peeling wallpaper, junk everywhere, joy buried under neglect, the purpose of survival laying comfort to rest.

So far, so expected.

Continue reading “Highlights and a Chelsea Blow Dry”

A meeting of minds

IMG_1264I arrived five minutes early and asked the librarian where the writing group was meeting.  She pointed to a corner where two elderly people sat – one reading the newspaper, another with a large stack of books indicating fervent research. “It starts at six thirty – right – until eight?” I asked.
“Yes” she said.

Ten minutes passed. Not much was happening.  The same two people still sat at the table.  I asked again. “Oh, the group doesn’t usually turn up ‘til about seven” she told me.
I held her gaze, wondering why this information had been slow to materialise.  “Are they part of the group?” I asked pointing at the corner.
“No, they’re in the wrong place.  There should be a sign on that table to indicate that they have to move.”
“Oh, yes, I saw one, but it said something about a reading group.”
“That’s the wrong sign.  I’m just making one now” she replied. Continue reading “A meeting of minds”

Where there is light

Musical accompaniment: http://bit.ly/1UK3TUT

P1070332Cold glittering pavements met my snow boot shod feet as I left the house.  This was a night for adventurers, curious people, resilient Londoners. With a temperature of – 2 degrees layers were required to brave weather so freezing that it hurt ears, numbed hands and nipped consistently at already chilled faces.  But oh, the reward.

In one of the darkest months of the year when light is fleeting, sunlight even more so, one craves brightness, forgetting for moments how wonderful and happy it can make you feel – until a reminder comes.

Continue reading “Where there is light”