Maria Teresa de Vallabriga y Rojas

P1060943It’s hard to put Rembrant’s portraits in the shade, but I’m afraid Goya more than gives him a run for his money.  In fact I’d go so far as to say he totally eclipses him.

In the usual packed blockbuster at the National Portrait Gallery, I stood behind a group of, shall we say, mature friends, discussing the particular position of Maria Teresa de Vallabriga y Rojas on her horse.  The more forthright (Lady F) of them commented “But if she’s really riding side saddle – which she would be – her legs are twisted in far too exaggerated a fashion!”

I looked at the portrait and tried to figure it out.  Meanwhile the debate raged on.  I couldn’t help it, I had to interject.  I explained to the trio that I felt Goya had done it deliberately.  That his main focus was on getting her face in profile, therefore he had to have her twist her legs around far more prominently so that we got the full picture so to speak.  “After all, he’s an artist” I said, “He’s entitled to be economical with the truth.”

Her friends moved on as Lady F answered me.  “Let me tell you, I ride side saddle and it doesn’t look remotely like that.”

Continue reading “Maria Teresa de Vallabriga y Rojas”


All that glitters

IMG_0581Denise and I hugged goodbye.  “Keep in touch” she said.  “I want an update on Tolga.”

Indeed there could not have been a more appropriate private view in the world to attend other than Lincoln Townley’s ‘W1’ last night.  I wasn’t even sure why I was there – other than a very lovely invite from my celeb cuz who I’m occasionally honoured to accompany on such jaunts. But, at the end of the evening I knew exactly why.

I googled the artist en route to the Royal Academy, only to discover he is way up there with the portrait painters of today.  Hollywood hasn’t escaped him – and recognition is worldly and unanimous. I was particularly struck by his painting of Al Pacino.

Having found the gallery within this noble institution – ‘To the right of the courtyard at the far end’ Bex’s message said – I wandered in to friends and family of the artist and various other showbiz acquaintances.

Continue reading “All that glitters”



Fan and all as I am of Ms Moss’s style, the much reported hologram of her in the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition seemed in fact a bit of a let down once you got to it.

It paled, literally and figuratively speaking into insignificance once one had done the rounds of the rest of his fierce and fantastical work.

“I met him a couple of times” I said to my friend B.  “The first was a Q & A he did either here or at the ICA in the early Nineties.  I remember it so clearly because I was wearing a pale green coloured moleskin suit I’d designed made-to-measure, and it was its first outing.  It was at the time when he was frequently lambasted in the press for being ‘Misogynistic.’”

Continue reading “Fierce”



It’s like in December everyone you know says ‘We must catch up before Christmas!’ which is swiftly followed by festive cards that read ‘Let’s meet in the New Year!’

The situation today was in a similar vein: Given that the current blockbuster exhibition was ending imminently we thought we’d better get down there to view it – along with the rest of the country.

“We’re definitely amongst those people of a certain age” my cousin noted looking around her at the grey/white haired heads populating the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery.  “Yes – quite!  That’s the joy of not working Rach!” I replied instantly.

Continue reading “Blockbuster”

Christmas craic: Mince pies in Soho


Christmas takes you where Christmas takes you.  On a warm Wednesday afternoon with shin splints – to Soho as it happens.


Starting off with a gingerbread latte in S’bucks, Vigo Street, I had my work cut out for me: Amongst other things I’d committed to popping in to see Los Hermanos Cubanos at Soho Radio with a few mince pies.


Four bearded men welcomed me and offered me another coffee on the house.  Everyone was in red.

I ventured into the studio and offered my wares.  Miguel was on the mic “Thanks for the mince pies S, but I cannot do them, the raisins they play havoc with my stomach. I think it’s a raisin inside – no?”


Kenny had two, Archie – one, Brent declined. I felt they were going down well.

“Get in touch with Bibi!” Brent called after me as I exited to Chopper’s hilarious monologue.

The record store I’ve intended to go to for aaaaaaaages beckoned.  Sounds of the Universe is pure disco.  I chatted to Neil.  “I need something along the lines of Vince Montana – you know ‘Love is the Message’ or Raw Silk – that kind of thing.”  He pulled a CD out for me as I proffered a pie.  He took a bite: “Mmmm, nice.”

A pit stop at a Swedish gentleman’s outfitters provided the venue to change shoes, and Sam – the conversation.  Trying to get into the music industry as a producer was tough at 25 he told me; ‘This city is hard, but I keep chipping away to manifest my own destiny’. “Tell me about it” I said and took out the goodies.  His eyes lit up on spotting the Christmas vittles as I held out the tupperware.

P1040250Riflemaker bid my time before drinks.  I chatted to Darren and Ian about the art on the walls. Welsh Ian talked ferries to Ireland, I talked about the craic.  Darren told me he was an artist and interested in the process – what got someone to put the marks on the page that they did? Speaking of that I must crack on I said, snapping a pic of one of Josephine King’s gripping paintings.


The Campari bar at Polpo was my final stop. Ivan the bartender told me about the drink that seems so right in Italy. He mixed us a cocktail, we raised our glasses – cherry red with a splash of Prosecco, all Christmassy.  “Hold on a second” I said, “I’ve got something here might go quite nicely with this.”

Favourite disco instrumental ever – sublime:

Meeting Mr Turk


“Oh yeah. I know Gavin, he’s a friend of mine – great guy” said Pinky as I related having met him at a recent night out in Shoreditch.

“He knows a good biscuit, that’s for sure” I said slicing into an Eggs Benedict weekend brunch.

I’d been invited to come on down to a pop-up jewellery shop at Boxpark on Thursday night.  Locating the event – sparsely populated but with the suspended air of more exciting times to come – I introduced myself to the founders of True Rocks – Emily and Dawn.

I got out my trusty Lumix and snapped away whilst we chatted.


“Oh, here’s Gavin!” Emily cried as a mammoth bearded gentleman made his way through a now increasingly crowded kitchen-at-a-party type space.  I slipped one of his Rich Tea necklaces over my head.

“What was behind all this?” I asked the artist of said piece.  “What were you thinking when you created it?”

“I wanted to do something about buying biscuits – cheap biscuits.  I was interested in that exchange.”  I looked at the necklace – a delicious treat in rose gold.  The concept contained a dollop of quintessential British humour I felt.  I wanted to know more, but first I had a burning question.

“Tell me something.  Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea and think I won’t bother writing that down because it’s so good I’ll remember it?”

Gavin interjected: “I know what you’re going to say next! Yes, I keep a piece of paper and pen by the bed.  But the thing I’ve decided is, it’s not the final idea itself that’s important (often looks rubbish in the morning) – it’s the thought process that led to it.  Essentially – what’s more interesting is how you got there.”


I looked into his green eyes (or were they blue?) – made more so by a double shiner (malevolent muggers), green sunglasses and the bushiest beard I’d seen in a while. “Does your other half like that?” I asked with a nod to it.

“Yeah! Women either love or hate it. I’m compiling a list of those who want me to shave it off for money.  Maybe one day I will and donate the proceeds to my wife’s charity – House of Fairy Tales .”


I finished my Verveine tea, and relating the evening’s events to Pinky. “It was nice wearing that necklace for the evening” I mused, admiring my brunch date’s newly hair free handsome face. “I hope they do the earrings.”

Margate. Part II

UnknownYou can’t miss The Turner Contemporary in Margate. It stands on the seafront, distinct from other buildings around it – all angular straight lines and hard concrete.

The work of Mondrian was being shown and although not my favourite artist, who was I to argue with free entrance (donations gratefully received) to appraise some of his earlier pieces in an easy going environment, with the added advantage of sea air when one needed a break.

“Get the headphones, S” E had advised when I told him I was going.  Usually I go for that kind of thing. It’s a bit like following a ranger around Yosemite or the Grand Canyon – lots of interesting info to lap up. But, this time I decided to go it alone.

His early studies in oil surprised me.  I knew the geometric stuff – white canvas with black lines and some red or blue and yellow filling in the boxes.  But, these were all sumptuous naturalism: Landscapes painted in oils of the countryside around Amsterdam, where he was from… another thing I didn’t know.

His ‘Riverscape with row of trees at left, sky with pink and yellow-green bands’  made me feel like jumping in to float on the still, green water and watch the sky changing into a dazzling sunset of orange and pink hues. What sensibility he had with colour!

I began to get more interested.  How on earth did he get from that lush expression to the austere abstraction of primary colours on white?

I put the headphones on and watched the 50 minute documentary.

His aim was to get to the truth – the very essence and pared down beauty of simplicity in communication;  He lived alone in a studio which was like one of his later paintings – bare, white, splashes of primary colours here and there; He loved Jazz, its influence on him resulted in a vibrancy of geometric shapes in his later work – both energising and simultaneously serene to look at.

His story blew me away.

As the film came to an end, the gentleman next to me spoke so that I didn’t hear the last quote from the artist:  “Fascinating, wasn’t he?” he asked.  I scribbled away furiously trying to get the words down but only got half.

Days later, Claire from the Turner Contemporary rang:  “I think this is the quote you wanted” she said and kindly dictated it to me:

“Art today is condemned to a separate existence, for present day life is essentially tragic.  But, in some distant future art and life will be one.”

If Art is creativity – how did he know?  It’s precisely what the digital age has enabled.
P1030593Catch it if you can – until 21 September 2014, Turner Contemporary, Margate.


P1020975What is it about Scandinavians at the moment?  They seem to be everywhere – or is it just me?

Edward Thomasson appears to have that sort of a name.  But, once inside the blacked out car on the way to the after party of his exhibition, he didn’t have even the faintest accent that suggested he was from Nordic climes.

“I like your video immensely” I said to him.  “I had to look at it a couple of times to work it out – to try and make sense of what it all meant.” “Yes, that’s what I wanted the audience to do” he replied.  “It’s like at the end of the film the policeman says ‘We’re sitting on the fence – we have to piece it together’”.

Video art installations often leave me cold, but I had found myself quite gripped by this one – of course my cousin is in it – a draw in itself.  Nevertheless the often opaque nature of art was rendered less so in this instance by a mystery, an invitation to think and figure out what had happened. It required some sleuth like skills and provoked the intellect.

At Bistroteque in E2 the party was starting.  Everywhere I looked in the outer easterly environs of London things were alive, energy was tangible and the beards something else.  Perhaps this had something to do with my latest thinking that the Nordics are omnipresent?  But, that’s a ridiculous stereotype for a start.

I talked to one of the girls who had played a policewoman in the film.  “How did you get this acting part – is it also your day job? I asked.  “No, no, not at all.  I was in Broadway market one weekend and saw a sign up saying ‘Open Auditions’”.  “Did you know you’d have to sing when you were offered it?”  “No, but I used to sing in a choir and I just felt like doing something different – I didn’t realise Edward would give me a solo!”

I spotted my super talented cousin, Rebecca, across a room full of facial and further fashionable manifestations of hair.  The East to West London journey beckoned. “You can’t go – the dancing’s about to start!” said Laura. Sure enough shapes were being thrown by a solo male as other people started to shake the odd limb nearby.

Nevertheless, we said goodbyes to various cast members, and Soosan – the composer of the film score…

Once home I googled the name: It seems the origins are not Scandinavian, but Persian.  I contemplated the night through my window, then drew the blinds. It would appear we’re looking at a thicker plot.P1020970

More art

images-1Wandering down Brick Lane on a warmish autumnal day, I marveled at how little it’s really changed. Although, back in the 80’s there wouldn’t have been an art fair here alongside the curry houses, fabric shops and the Beigel bakery.

When arriving somewhere, as always, the first thing to do is get a drink.  I purloined a tea from the outside cafe at Moniker and got started.  A signpost informed me that a ‘Taxidermy Workshop’ was £70.  I made my way towards it passing all the various art stands en route. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed and anywhere I so much as paused, I was invariably drawn into conversation.

I took in some drawings.  Still in vogue, I thought, and then noticed some rather sinister looking witch-like sculptures standing on plinths. ‘Hello’ said an eager youthful chap standing beside his work. ‘Hi’ I said. ‘There seems to be a rather macabre element to this show; I’ve noticed quite a lot of darkness to the art – is it fashionable now?‘  ‘Well, art isn’t really about fashion’ he explained.  ‘You may find that galleries imitate each other – but artists don’t’. I guess it’s a reaction to the recession for all us poor young things!’

A few metres down, Lorenzo leant towards me grinning: ‘Do you like my work?’  ‘How do you do them?’ I asked in response.  ‘I take a magazine cover and remove all the colour and imagery around the model, that is why you just see the lines of her face here.  Basically I bring the human back – I rescue her!’

‘What about these?’ I said pointing to a reproduction Constable landscape with what looked like little brown wooden fences stuck onto it. ‘I put things on a very famous painting to distract the viewer from the focus of the picture.  With Constable it was all about infinity which represented hope, so you notice I place this (pointing to a latticed piece of wood) on the background – therefore I eliminate that sentiment.  ‘That’s nice’ I said, moving on and thanking him for the explanation.

Walking around a corner, I came face to face with a lengthy table of people stuffing things.  Butterflies lay pinned to boards, suspended in glass frames.  I looked more closely and noticed a lady holding a small white furry thing in her hand.  A man with a large camera turned to me, chuckling: ‘Fancy stuffing a mouse?’ he said.  ‘It doesn’t really appeal’ I answered as I looked for the exit.


2013-10-17 20.51.30I sauntered down Marylebone High Street around 8pm, glad to be going home after a long day, but willing to be swayed to stay out.

I glanced to my right and noticed a lot of razzamatazz outside a small neon blue lit building.  What is it? I thought. A new club? Somewhere I need to know about? Perhaps a place I could go for my imminent birthday..

I crossed the street to join the throng of people outside and noticed the flashing lights, indicating serious cameras at work. Two girls manned the door. ‘I don’t think you’ll have me down’ I said, pointing to the guest list. ‘Well, let’s see’ the tall blonde girl said as she thumbed through the pages. ‘Oh, really I’m sure I’m not on there’.  ‘It’s fine’ she said, waving me though.

Squeezing through the masses at this opening of ‘Submerged’ by Tyler Shields, another glamorous girl with dark hair and a red tutu smiled at me. ‘Like a drink?’ she said, thrusting a tall glass of pinkness into my hand. ‘Thank you’ I said, taking off a couple of layers and dropping my bag by the bar.

Trays of sushi were temptingly laid out.  I popped a piece of raw tuna into my mouth and surveyed the scene.

Photographers were everywhere. ‘Is Kate Moss due here?’ I asked one of them; usually at an art view or somesuch event in London that’s the reason there’s such a proliferation of big lenses.  ‘I think she was invited, but not sure she’s coming’ he replied.

I complimented the DJ on the tunes he was playing, ‘My name is Gregory – what’s yours?’ he said.  ‘Oh! Are you French?’ I asked. ‘No, Italian, but I live in France that’s why I speak like I do’.  We chatted about the art. ‘I like the large photographs, but I think £18,000 is a bit expensive for one’ he said smiling.

Tytti (from Finland) took my name for the gallery’s list.  Did I know Tyler’s work, she asked. I confessed that I didn’t.  ‘He photographs a lot of celebrities – Lindsay Lohan is one of the more famous’.  I pointed out my favourite picture and she told me that it was Lydia Hearst – the next ‘big star’ and that: ‘All the models had to learn to hold their breath for four minutes to go underwater where he took the photos’.

I left the by now hot and steamed up gallery for some air and got chatting to Gemma – an intern at the gallery. ‘I’d love a cigarette‘ I said. ‘Yes, I would too – I’ll go find us some’ she said, disappearing inside.

Tyler walked past in a dinner suit and black bow tie looking every inch the dapper photographer.  He posed for a picture with a bright blue haired young lady.  As she vanished another took her place; this time a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.

Gemma appeared back with two cigarettes. ‘I’ll give you a couple of invitations for the Moniker Art Fair tomorrow, and you must have a goody bag before you go’ she said.  I thanked her and a little while later left the party thinking about the art world and the domino effect.2013-10-17 20.27.18