Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Brown Sugar in Chelsea

Philomena Francis has just finished her degree at Chelsea College of Art & Design, now nicely snuggling between the Millbank Tower and Tate Britain. I was at the private view of the finalists' work last Friday and, boy, was it BUSY, and HAPPENING, and full of ART STUDENTS.

Consquently I saw lots of things that tried hard and said little.

But I saw one thing that was deceptively simple and elegant, while speaking volumes. And luckily it was my friend's work.

It's called "Molasses" and the room in which it appears is etched in treacle, repeating a huge female face over and over the four walls (see image). The reference to blaxploitation and Marsha Hunt is deliberate, as are the connotations of brown sugar. Her last work was made out of sugar and sacking and depicted slave women. This simplification is where she's arrived after five years studying fine art. Being in the room is wonderful because of the smell and the lines dripping round you. Sadly the image doesn't capture that element.

So, from my initial delight in the decorative value as I walked in - "I'd love you to decorate my new house!" - to recognising the faces and fingers in the web of brown lines spidering across the walls, to working out the many political layers of the work; it was a conceptual piece with enough of the sensual to be overwhelming on both dimensions.

Apparently men want to lick it. Though not as much, I'm told, as they wanted to lick the naked sugar bodies of the last work. Me, I had to work not to run a finger under a drip, but that's just a response learnt from a lifetime of catching drips from jugs and bottles.

I hope she gets the first she deserves. Results on Friday...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Avebury Rocks - I know, I've been!

The Solstice passed quietly in Colliers Wood. However, early signs of great festivity were to be witnessed in Avebury, where I spent last weekend. Our B&B had intimated that a few days later we'd have had to pay more for our rooms and probably to have booked them in June last year, or something.

It was very nice. At dusk, when I was taking portraits of individual stones, we spent a moment speculating on how long the embracing couple would stand in the circle we were crossing and do nothing. Later, from our room, we could no longer see them, but perhaps that was just night obscuring all.

Other notable features included the cost of the National Trust food (high) and the pleasantness of the ratatouille bought there (high); the absence of Julian Cope or any sign of his involvement in the place (probably knows better than to hang around near a solstice); the excellent Thai restaurant and shopping street in nearby Marlborough; a story from our landlord about the couple that spent the night after reconnecting on Friends Reunited and when she asked him whether he thought that they should get married this time, he said that he already was and she hit him with the key fob and took off in the hired car while he went to the local infirmary to be sown up; sitting under a stone and watching the world go by; tramping round Wiltshire's white horses (cut into local hillsides and mostly visible from the road) and the different look that the locals had from what we are used to seeing in either Poole or London.

Good one. We might make it an annual 'tween-the-birthdays weekend, though not always to Avebury, necessarily.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Official: London's Worst Building is in Colliers Wood

A long time ago now (well, Dec 2005, see the entry on Demolition here), the Tower, or the Brown and Root Tower as we knew it, was voted into the top 10 of buildings that Britons would most like to demolish.

This month, Londoners have voted it the most loathed building in London. 52% of voters in BBC London's poll for Architecture Week - which I singly haven't been a part of despite reading the events on the website and using rather a neat summary mechanism for sending a potential itinerary to my inbox - chose the Colliers Wood monstrosity. Though, as one person commented on The Londonist's reaction piece, most north Londoners don't even know that there is life beyond Clapham, let alone tall buildings. No matter. Those who have seen it have been sufficiently scarred.

I'm proud of our new distinction. The Tower was amongst some illustrious company: The Tower Hotel by Tower Bridge; the Southbank Centre; The Swiss Re HQ (ie The Gherkin); and Centrepoint. However, when you read that only 512 votes were cast, it feels less like "London speaks..." and more like the work of my mate from the Tooting borders on a day when she was bored. Only 265 clicks...

Friday, June 02, 2006

May's Theatre

It was a fine month for theatregoing.

6th: Visible by Cardboard Citizens, Soho Theatre.
7th: The Exonerated, Riverside Studios.
17th: The Changeling by CheekbyJowl, The Barbican.
18th: Love and Other Fairytales by Scarlet, The ArtsDepot.
30th: project D: I'm Mediocre by The Work Theatre Collective, Tristan Bates Theatre.
31st: Red Ladies by The Clod Ensemble, Hackney Empire.

Not only did I see six plays, but I saw them in pairs. And, funnily enough, the pairs made sense. What power we have to find meaning in things.

Pair one were overt social protest.
Pair two were wry comment on relations between the sexes.
Pair three were bitty and culmulative; well-observed but ultimately fragmented. And I was too tired to get the best from them.

Further: Oh dear, I didn't see six plays, I saw seven. But I'm still so tired that I can't count. The other play, on 9th May, was the Oxford Stage Company doing Paradise Lost at Brighton Theatre Royal. It was in a class of its own, so that's OK. It wasn't part of a pair.

Moments of note:
* Adam and Eve acting for 20mins as nature intended before eating the apple and shifting their delivery just enough to make them knowingly without clothes. Beautifully nuanced. And she was gorgeous too, though we both left the theatre wondering if she'd had a boob job. Shame the bloke was less striking.

More to come...