James Rhodes - Soho Theatre 06 February 2018

Monday evenings are usually a fairly drab affair even more so in the dead of this never ending winter. But last night the spell of early week mundanity was broken by an outstanding performance by pianist James Rhodes at The Soho Theatre.

For those who’ve never ventured to The Soho Theatre its a snug little venue on Dean street with an underground theatre space that holds not more than about a hundred. The small stage was just large enough to accommodate a piano and Mr Rhodes’s formidable talent.

The show opened with James strolling onto the stage, greeting the audience with a casual wave and then he was straight on the keys. The acoustics in the room were perfect for the chosen pieces which centred around a theme of finding happiness. The first piece although quite heavy sounding was quite pivotal for James Rhodes. He reflected on this piece as a symbol of happiness and positivity that helped him through a darker time at a psychiatric ward.

The performance was thoroughly mesmerising. It was evident that here was an artist who was truly lost in the moment and whose traumatic past is addressed through the power of the music he plays so beautifully. Each piece was punctuated by short stand up moments where he talks candidly to the audience about the composers and the pieces he plays, painting a vivid picture of the world and situation in which the music was conceived.

The performance was moving, humorous and genuine. And really knocked the stuffiness out of classical concerts and replaced it with a more relaxed interchange between artist and audience. Unfortunately the show is sold out for the rest of the week but if you get a chance to see James Rhodes play, snap it up. You won’t be disappointed.

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Red Star over Russia - A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905 - 55 30 January 2018

Red Star over Russia.

A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905 - 55 at Tate Modern

Every design student has their brush with Russian Constructivism in their formative years and rightly so. For me it was one of my main motivations for pursuing a career in graphic design. Radical new techniques pioneered by Alexandr Rodchenko, El Lissitsky, Lyubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova seemed just as disruptive in the 1990s as they did in 1917. The appreciation for Constructivist art and design never left me so I was elated when the Red Star over Russia exhibition opened at the Tate Modern this month.

The show isn’t exclusively Constructivist and is certainly richer for it. It comes from the extensive collection of photographer David King which was acquired by the Tate in 2016.

It’s a journey through the visual language that supported early revolutionary ideology, celebrated its paradigm changing triumph, maintained the integrity of the Soviet regime during the 1930s and called the Russian people to arms during World War 2.

King’s collection is truly captivating. The creativity of the work that embraced photomontage, empowered typography and sought to arrest the proletariat’s attention in Soviet society is as compelling today as it was a hundred years ago. The boldness of colour and impact of the imagery really defines the aesthetics of a revolutionary movement and transcends class, culture and borders. Some of the most interesting work are revolutionary posters in Arabic that evolve the visual styles and colour palettes while maintaining the impact.

Part of the exhibition’s power is the balance of visual content gathered throughout the first fifty years. it’s interesting how the images change from the high energy, optimistic young revolution visuals to the darker side of political purges, executions, gulags and the persecutions of the Great Terror. This puts the Russian revolution and subsequent Soviet State into perspective. Aspiration meets a harsh reality and one regime is simply replaced by another.

What is apparent is that the visual revolution that emerged out of the political revolution influenced art and design further afield and for longer than it could possibly have imagined.

The exhibition runs until 18 February 2018

£13.30 adults

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Jean-Michel Basquiat - Boom for real 04 January 2018

In 1988 I remember watching a South Bank Show documentary about a young American artist who had just recently died from a heroin overdose. It told a story of SAMO a teenage graffiti writer living in a box in central park in the late 1970s who scrawled the city’s walls with wild esoteric prose who went on to be discovered by Andy Warhol and eventually to become one of the most successful and highly paid artists of the 80s. I was immediately hooked on Basquiat.

Since then, apart from a small show of privately owned works in a Cork Street gallery in 2003,  I’d never seen Basquiat’s work in all its raw glory… until the Barbican opened the first large scale exhibition this September. The show is a real assault (in a good way) on the senses and a compelling journey through Basquiat’s story.

It begins on the mezzanine level with works created for the New York / New Wave show curated by Diego Cortez in 1981. Made on different materials, wood, canvas, paper and scrap metal the work sets the scene for what’s to come. Crude renditions of urban life accompanied by seemingly random interruption of colour and hand written text.

The journey continues by taking a step back into Basquiat’s formative years under the moniker of SAMO. It was fascinating to see early articles in The Soho weekly news along with photographs of SAMO graffiti on walls around Manhattan. The real highlight was the original artwork for postcards that Basquiat would create and sell with Jennifer Stein.

The exhibition continues through rooms showing Basquiat’s involvement with The Mudd Club and subsequently Arena, highlighting Edo Bergoglio’s Downtown 81 which shows a day in the life of Basquiat as a down and out artist drifting through various downtown art scenes.

At the half way point the volume goes right up showing the work produced at the Great Jones Street studio leased for Basquiat by Warhol. Here the work shows an eruption of creativity. Wild colour, marks and language run over crudely constructed canvases. The works both captivate and confuse, intrigue and repel. At moments it’s like looking into an insane mind that has an unbridled stream of consciousness.

There’s no rules and no limit to Basquiat’s work. It is unapologetically visceral, it speaks loudly in a covert language and it astounds and perplexes in the same glance. For me there’s an uncompromising honesty to Basquiat’s work that reflects a truly unique artistic perspective that we’ve not seen since.

The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018

£16.00 adults

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Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Not everyone will be taken into the future. 21 November 2017

Not knowing a great deal about contemporary Russian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. I was wonderfully surprised to find their current exhibition at the Tate Modern to be a wonderfully immersive journey and compelling story of two artists who’ve challenged convention and perceptions over the past 60 years.

Known for their large scale conceptual installations and use of fictional personas their work challenges and critiques the conventions of former Soviet visual culture contrasting the drab reality of life under the Soviet regime with amplified propaganda images of overly optimistic depictions of Soviet life.

The exhibition begins with a focus on Ilya who worked as an artist outside the official parameters of the Soviet art establishment during the 1960s up to the beginnings of Perestroika in the late 1980s where he moved to New York and began collaborating with Emilia.

For me the show maps a progressive creative journey that twists and turns with the most unexpected images, forms and experiences. The earlier rooms which focus on Ilya’s fictional characters and stark contrasts between the propaganda and reality of Soviet life are fascinating and visually disruptive. More formal state sanctioned imagery is forced almost brutally into social realist depictions of Russian people appearing like huge collages.

The later rooms are really immersive in the way both artists create conceptual spaces and narratives that engage and challenge perceptions. ‘The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment’ is a visual sensation. Raw and intense it also creates a humorous story through the rudimentary human catapult at the centre of the space. In contrast ‘How to meet an Angel’ presents a more elegant and refined situation while still maintaining an endearing humour.

If you’re in the Bankside area do check out the show. It’ll charm, surprise and hopefully enlighten.

The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018

£13.30 adults


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Getting to know Eduardo 05 May 2017

On the latest of the design team’s cultural outings we gathered together our creative baggage and headed out to the Whitechapel Gallery on the edge of The City to see the Eduardo Paolozzi exhibition.

Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) was one of the most innovative British artisits of his generation and pushed the boundaries of contemporary sculpture, textile, ceramic, collage and print crafts. His most well known public piece of art in the UK was to be found at Tottenham Court Road Underground station in the form of a vast sprawling multi coloured mural which danced overhead across the Central Line platform and interchanges. These murals are now being renovated and reconstructed in Paolozzi’s home city of Edinburgh before once again going on display to the public. These works however only give a small view into the vast creative output and talent of this progressive ideas man.

A recurring theme in Paolozzi’s work during the sixties is the combination of man and machine which can be seen in his sculpture and vivid screen prints. The sculptural pieces were pioneering in the art world by their use of concrete to reflect the modern world in a raw and brutalist style. Produced at the same time and in direct contrast to his sculpture a series of screen prints burst with bright colours and metallic inks. The process involved layering up multiple inked plates to create intricate, bold and inspiring images which sit comfortably in the Pop Art bracket.

During the eighties Paolozzi experimented in sculpture and the process of making. He would copy and recast artworks in plaster, then assemble them into new forms, destroy them and then again reassemble them before casting the whole creation in bronze. The whole point was that the “art” is in the creative process of the making and that the final piece was irrelevant. These are very modern concepts of art and something that younger artists would go on to build upon in contemporary art across the world.

Following our highbrow outing we decided to keep things real by heading straight to Poppies Fish & Chips shop in Spitalfields to process all these concepts over mushy peas and a pint.

Recommended by Living Group this exhibition runs from 16 February – 14 May 2017 at The Whitechapel Gallery, London

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‘Switched’ on. 07 February 2017

If you can’t get enough of bold uncompromising architectural structures, concrete floors, walls and sweeping staircases, minimalist features, simple signage, beautiful lighting and stunning views, then you’ll love the newly built and freshly set Switch House; Tate Modern’s ‘power pyramid’ extension.

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron – a swiss based architectural firm – it’s 11 floors high, and expands the museum by 60%, housing art exhibitions, restaurants and bars.

Tate’s director Sir Nicholas Serota told a press briefing in London that the aim was to create “a new museum for the 21st century that reflects a truly international view of art”.

The views from the balcony are breathtaking. Definitely an ‘I Love London’ moment. That view is worth a visit alone.

Oh, but ‘please respect your neighbour’s privacy’. All will become clear!

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