Last Chance to See: Adam Patterson and Jean Claude Dagrou – Another Lost Child | Culture24

Last Chance to See: Adam Patterson and Jean Claude Dagrou – Another Lost Child | Culture24.

All images courtesy of Adam Patterson

Exhibition: Adam Patterson and Jean Claude Dagrou – Another Lost Child, Photofusion, London, until March 25 2011

Frenzied press coverage of teenage gun and knife crime has long fuelled the fears of the public.

While living in South London and studying for his Masters in photojournalism, Adam Patterson decided to confront that fear by going beyond the headlines and into the heart of South London gangland culture.

Victim of a stabbing- a case of mistaken identity

“I decided to try to find these kids the journalists were writing about and learn about their lives – give them a voice of their own,” Patterson explains.

“It was very difficult initially. I’m a white guy from Northern Ireland and I did question what right I had to get involved in a place which wasn’t my home or part of my culture. The project had the potential to be an ethical minefield.”

Perhaps it is for these reasons that the resulting exhibition abstains from being overtly morally or politically prescriptive. However, it does transcend the menacing stereotypes showcased in the media to reveal something altogether more tender and human.

Patterson’s initial project organically became a collaboration between himself and his main subject – Jean Claude Dagrou, a 19-year-old gang member with whom Patterson grew very close.

Dagrou, or “Vipoh”, now 22, was not only stabbed but witnessed the stabbing of his cousin and was looking for a way out of gang life.

His passion being music, he asked Patterson to take pictures for his MySpace page and soon began using the photographer as an excuse to avoid old friends.

The two spent almost every day together for a period of six months, collaborating on Patterson’s photographic project, Another Lost Child.

Dagrou was accepted onto a photography course at Photofusion and began producing his own work. He has since moved to Doncaster to live with his girlfriend, and “start afresh”. The exhibition follows him to Doncaster and documents his new life away from the daily grind of his former existence.

It is Dagrou himself who provides the emotional context for the exhibition by narrating each photograph and providing work of his own.

 

Doncaster 2010

Another Lost Child should be commended for its thoughtful execution and acutely powerful portrayal of, in Dagrou’s own words, “how a young guy can change his life around.”

Photofusion is a minute’s walk away from Brixton train station and is open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm (7pm Tuesday). Admission free.

Click to find out more about Adam Patterson

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture24, Photography

Tim Andrews’ moving portrayal of Parkinson’s Disease at The Lightbox, Woking

 

 

Box by Liz Orton

Parkinson’s sufferer Tim Andrews talks to Kirstie Brewer about how he became the subject of a new exhibition and the catharsis it has brought him

Tim Andrews’ story is proof that one should never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Always a ‘glass half-full’ kind of person with a tendency to look on the bright sideof life, his natural optimism was put to the ultimate test in 2005, when at 54, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Ironically, Andrews “has never felt happier” and being afflicted with this degenerative, neurological condition has become the lifeblood behind a compelling new digital installation at The Lightbox Gallery, Woking. Over the Hill: A Photographic Journey brings together powerful portraits of the Milford resident, taken by more than 100 photographers since the onset of his illness. The photographers range from degree students to celebrated luminaries, such as Rankin, Harry Borden and Jillian Edelstein. Each has played their part in constructing a humble, yet profound narrative about one man’s confrontationwith life, death and mortality.

Every day is a holiday by Miss Aniela (Natalie Dybisz)

Less than two years after his diagnosis, Andrews responded to an advertisement in Time Out Magazine by photographer Graeme Montgomery, who was seeking participants for his book of real nudes.During the weeks that followed, Andrews replied to further advertisements from photographers requesting people to sit for portrait photography. Then in 2008, Andrews responded to a local ad by student photographer Daisy Lang who was looking for people with illnesses willing to be photographed for her final year’s exhibition. Andrews realised she was one of many more photographers looking for models and decided to be captured by as many people as possible during the course of his illness.

It became a life-enhancing project. Then in 2008, Andrews responded to a local ad by student photographer Daisy Lang who was looking for people with illnesses willing to be photographed for her final year’s exhibition. Andrews realised she was one of many more photographers looking for models and decided to be captured by as many people as possible during the course of his illness.It became a life-enhancing project.

Beautiful Decay by Danielle Tunstall

There is something very warm and unassuming in Andrews’ voice, which assures me that he is looking for neither sympathy nor recognition. He doesn’t wish to be defined by Parkinson’s Disease – although inevitably it now shapes him to some degree. He is simply enjoying his new-found freedom and indulging in the things he never had time to do before. It’s clear that Over the Hill is a very personal project fuelled by, “the excitement of meeting and working with interesting and creative people”. “I am an incredibly happy man –ironically, Parkinson’s has given me a new lease of life. I feel very blessed,” he says. This new lease of life was sparked when Andrews was forced to retire in 2006,having worked as a solicitor in Grayshottfor 29 years.

Invisible by Harry Borden

“I was never really cut out to be a solicitor,” he admits. “I was good at my job because I worked hard and I was good with clients, but academically it was never really my thing – I wanted to be an actor in fact.”

When the realisation hit that his working life would be over, he turned to his wife and burst into tears.

“The enormity of it all was just incredible. I cried out of utter relief and because of the realisation that I could give it all up without feeling guilty – I was suddenly free with everyone’s blessing and goodwill.

“My children were very worried when I first got diagnosed, but when they saw howI dealt with the illness I think they took great heart from it. They saw it wasn’t the end of me – in a funny way it was a new beginning.”

Until he was diagnosed, Andrews knew very little about Parkinson’s Disease and is now keen to raise its profile with the exhibition and his own fundraising.

“One of my son’s favourite actors is Michael J Fox so we were all aware of it but to me Parkinson’s just equalled shaking and something being wrong with your brain,” he admits. He made the national papers and raised£5,000 for Parkinson’s UK by taking part in Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth Project, One & Other in 2009. Clad in a mini top hat, Victorian coat frock and wielding a cane, Andrews, danced on the plinth to Madness for a full hour.

“I was shaking partly due to my fear of heights and partly due to the Parkinson’s!” he says, laughing. It was Andrews’ wife Jane; a successful artist with a good eye for photography, who encouraged him to approach The Lightbox with his photographers project.

“She recognised pretty quickly that the photographs were worthy of a show. Without her drive and support, it probably would never have happened,” he explains.

“I wanted to present a show locally and The Lightbox is a fantastic gallery, which always has interesting things going on. My family and friends were intrigued and were all very supportive although my kids are not that keen on the images of daddy in the nude!” he laughs.

Heavy is the Head by Louis Connelly

Admittedly, the exhibition’s title – Over the Hill – doesn’t appear to reflect Andrews’ relentless brightness in the face of adversity; so why did he choose to sucha dreary phrase? He explains that the idea stemmed from John Lennon’s song Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple). Before launching into a rousing recording of the track, Lennon announces to his band; “Alright boys, this is it, over the hill”.

Like the earlier Give Peace a Chance, strident spirit pulses through the percussion laden track. It was released in 1973 when embers of the hippie culture were still burning brightly, fuelled by a longing for world peace and political change. Such an energetic and passionate song appears to perfectly complement the exhibition which, after all, is essentially about resilience.

“Although the phrase ‘over the hill’ has negative connotations, the song is sung by Lennon in a very positive way. He goes onto sing, ‘Free the people/Do it, do it, do it,do it now’. So, for me, the title of the exhibition is optimistic despite the double meaning,” he says.

“It might initially sound like I’ve had it and I am on the refuse heap, but in reality it’s completely the opposite.”Andrews’ evident good humour and incurable optimism shines through many of the photographs he appears in whilst other images bravely reveal a darker, more vulnerable facet to Andrews’ persona.

Ultimately, it is his determination to face life’s challenges head on that permeates each image and this is sure to humble anyone who visits the exhibition. I’m left feeling deeply moved by his philosophical outlook and feel sure that the photographs will serve as a poignant testament to how precious, fragile and fleeting life really is.

Over the hill by Roberto Foddai

“When I used to hear the phrase, ‘live every day as if it were your last’, I thought it had a laudable sentiment, but I didn’t really give it much more thought than that,” Andrews muses.

But when you have Parkinson’s Disease you realise that you really have to take advantage and make each day count” he says with an air of quiet dignity.

“I think I’m less afraid of death now than I used to be because I feel like if I fill my life with the right things I won’t have wasted my time. If you start doing things life moves much more slowly and you fit more in.”

Over the Hill: A Photographic Journey is at The Lightbox  from Feb 1–27. www.thelightbox.org.uk

To make a donation to the charity, Parkinson’s UK, or support Tim Andrews’ ongoing fundraising, visit Tim’s fundraising page

Click to see this article as published on Culture24

As published in The Guildford Magazine, Feb 2011

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Interviews, Photography

One Love

An expert on Royal weddings and a roving reporter on The One Show, Gyles Brandreth is a very busy man. And now he’s gearing up for a stand-up tour. Kirstie Brewer finds herself engaged in conversation

Few people wear as many hats – or woolly jumpers – as Gyles Brandreth. Not only has he sashayed his way from show
business to politics and back again – he has also written for nearly every national newspaper, had a wealth of acclaimed
books published and broken a couple of world records to boot. Now he is about to bring his new stand-up tour, The One to One Show – a rollercoaster ride of anecdotes about the notable people he has met in the worlds of show business,
politics and beyond – to Surrey.

With so many competing interests, I was none too surprised when it took me three attempts to have a proper chat with the man in question. The first attempt was scuppered by the announcement of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton. A frenzied phone call from Gyles confirmed that, as a confidant who has written several biographies on the royals, he had been drafted into The One Show to comment, and was speeding towards the studio that very second. “Such is the nature of the beast,” he said apologetically with a vaudeville flourish.

Twenty four hours later, when we finally manage a proper conversation, Gyles tells me he is delighted by the news of the imminent union. “Kate and William are of the old school like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip; they do things properly and this could well be a royal marriage which doesn’t end in divorce!” he says.

“Winston Churchill said Queen Elizabeth’s marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh was ‘a splash of colour on the hard road we have to travel’. I think this befits Kate and William’s engagement
too.”

Never one to miss the opportunity to make a joke, he adds larkishly, “and Kate has waited so long that she knows exactly what’s in store – she knows she is marrying a man who will be bald.”

Brandreth could be considered the ultimate insider on Royal relationships; his biographies Charles & Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair and Philip & Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage were the first of their kind and allowed Brandreth
unprecedented access. He now visits Buckingham Palace regularly but things weren’t always as comfortable.

“I used to think that when royalty leave the room it is rather like getting a seed out of your tooth – it can be a little bit awkward and a relief when it’s over. It isn’t easy to make small talk with the Queen. There’s an invisible moat around her. I talk more about that in my show.”

“Prince Philip is another character who appears in my show; I first met him some
30 or more years ago and have always liked and admired him enormously. I found him to be very different to the caricature people portray. He can be very amusing- he once said to me, ‘If ever you see a man opening the car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife’. He isn’t always easy but his story is fascinating.”

Suffice to say, the inimitable Gyles isn’t short on such tales and was only too happy to share them with an entralled public in his one man comedy act ‘The One to One Show’, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. Following a huge sell out success, Gyles is now taking his unique blend of wit, wordplay and outrageous name-dropping all over the UK.

Gyles celebrates the 1000th episode of Countdown

Brandreth has had varying success at pleasing crowds; he failed spectacularly in the 1990s as an MP for the city of Chester.  Always quick to send himself up before somebody else does he explains;“I was a conservative MP- until the people spoke. And they spoke in no uncertain terms. My wife says at least when I lost my seat I managed to bring the entire community together.”

He was also a government whip and lord commissioner of the treasury – the last cheque he signed was for the princely sum of 136 billion pounds. The wicked ways of Westminster are all divulged in his show, as are his stories about David Cameron whom “he met at the treasury as a lad and liked enormously.”

Presumably as an MP he wore a different hat to the one which permits prancing about onstage in suspenders or showing Michael Jackson your moonwalk? “Oh yes, I was a respectable MP and in case you’re wondering I didn’t fiddle my expenses- I dug my own moat and my wife paid for all her own DVDs.”

Against my will, I am finding it hard not to warm to this debonair king of boardgames. Indeed, he has a charming gift of making me feel like I am the sole most important thing on earth. Contrived or otherwise, he certainly knows how to work an audience. I appear to be getting a sneak preview of the show; as he showers me with anecdotes about everyone from Michael Jackson to the Queen. And let’s face, it; he’s got a lot to draw on.

Gyles the teddy bear enthusiast

He is a former resident of Dictionary Corner on Countdown, a regular on Radio 4’s Just A Minute, a familiar face on QI and Have I Got News for You and a roving reporter on BBC1’s The One Show.

Never one to rest on his laurels, he is writing the fourth in his series of Victorian murder mysteries and overseeing their adaptation for TV. Oh, and did I mention he is the former Monopoly champion of Europe and President of the Association of British Scrabble Players?

In fact, Gyles Brandreth is so firmly imprinted upon the national consciousness that it’s hard to feel indifferent towards
him. For a man who achieved notoriety from a single term as a Tory MP and an inclination to wear comedy cardigans, he divides opinion like a river of Marmite. But it’s difficult to abstain from being at least a little curious about a man with such a colourful career history. Yet, he rejects the charge that he is a bit of a Gyles of all trades. “The three most potent words in the English language are ‘don’t dabble; focus’- I wear different hats on different days but I always do things properly,” he insists.

Debbie Reynolds with Gyles on The One Show

In fact it is this insistence on doing  things properly that’s caused him to return to comedy; forty years after he gave his first, dubious stand-up performance. Having gained a little notoriety as a primetime television presenter, he fancied himself as “god’s gift to comedy” and asked his agent to book him a stand up gig. Age 20, he found himself walking into a Mancunian working man’s club – to support none other than Bernard Manning. The words ‘baptism of fire’ spring to mind.

“Bernard took one look at me and thought, this lad is wet behind the ears,” he tells me in his unmistakable, fruity voice. But his comedy routine wasn’t greeted with the boos or abuse he had anticipated; “The audience just gazed up at the stage,  mesmerised. I was five minutes into my routine when I realised that Bernard had put two topless go-go girls directly behind me and they were gyrating slowly in time to my jokes.”

Did he learn anything from possibly the most offensive man in the history of British comedy? “Bernard Manning told totally unacceptable jokes… but he was very, very funny. I learnt the power of clutching an audience, looking them in the eye and feeling the fear but doing it anyway.”

To read the original article click the following link: Gyles Brandreth, Surrey Downs Magazine Jan 2011

Click here The One to One Show’s tour dates

Leave a comment

Filed under Interviews, Theatre

John Deakin’s Gods and Monsters invade Pallant House in Chichester | Culture24

John Deakin, Lucian Freud (1952), Photograph by John Deakin. Courtesy Vogue © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd

Counting Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon as friends, 1950s Soho art scene wildchild John Deakin’s painterly yearnings saw the Vogue photographer treat success with suspicion. Kirstie Brewer sees the uncompromising prints which survived him.

Pallant House’s latest exhibition resurrects a man who, until recently, has been missing from photographic history. The man in question is Vogue photographer John Deakin: perhaps the ultimate bohemian bad boy of the 1950s Soho art scene.

The exhibition pairs iconic portraits of British artists by Deakin with major paintings by each artist, providing a unique window into the post-war British art scene and the intimate circle of artists he was part of.

“Any exhibition of John Deakin’s photography is going to be a modest one,” explains curator Robin Muir.

“Deakin didn’t want to be a photographer – he longed to be a painter like his friends – but fortunately for us and rather unfortunately for him, he didn’t make a very good one.”

John Deakin, Francis Bacon (1952),Photograph by John Deakin. Courtesy Vogue © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd

With friends like Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, perhaps it is little wonder Deakin felt slightly perturbed. Despite recognition for his photographs, he fiercely resisted his talent, treating success with mistrust and greeting failure with indifference.

A notorious drunk, Deakin never took his work seriously and never expected to make any money from it. In fact, he might well have found more relish in being the only staff photographer in the magazine’s history to be hired and fired twice by the same admiring but exasperated editor.

The exhibition is drawn largely from a portfolio commissioned by Vogue in 1951 and 1952 of 12 contemporary artists, along with other portraits of painters and sculptors Deakin made for the magazine at various points throughout his brief career.

Artists and subjects featured in the show include heavyweights like Barbara Hepworth, Michael Andrews, Eduardo Paolozzi and John Piper, as well as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

John Deakin, Self-portrait (1952), Photograph by John Deakin. Courtesy Vogue © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd

In their ragged state, the photographs are a refreshing change to the pristine prints so often seen in exhibitions. Like so much of Deakin’s practice, they are lucky to have survived him.

They make no concessions to vanity and were described by friend Daniel Farson as “prison mugshots taken by a real artist”. What is most striking is their rawness and lack of ‘style’- rather ironic for a Vogue photographer.

Loved or loathed, god or monster, Deakin’s influence on British art and the mythology of Soho in the 1950s can’t be overlooked. The photographs he made for his closest friend, Francis Bacon, are credited as being vital to the artist’s interpretation of the human form.

“Of all these ‘sacred monsters’, Deakin may have behaved the worst – the Woolworth’s heiress, Barbara Hutton, called him the ‘second nastiest little man I ever met,’”says Muir

“But to his peers he was a true original, his professionalism behind the lens, for the most part, unimpeachable.”

I wonder what the man himself would have made of this bittersweet exhibition…

Brighton Photo Biennial 2010: Gods and Monsters: John Deakin’s Portraits of British Artists, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until  January 10 2011

John Deakin’s Gods and Monsters invade Pallant House in Chichester | Culture24.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture24, Photography

Curator’s Choice: Polly Morgan’s Rest a Little on the Lap of Life at Pallant House | Culture24

Curator’s Choice: Polly Morgan’s Rest a Little on the Lap of Life at Pallant House | Culture24.

Rest A Little On The Lap of Life

Curator’s Choice: Julie Brown, of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, talks about Rest a Little on the Lap of Life by Polly Morgan, an artwork as part of Contemporary Eye: Crossovers, a new exhibition featuring works of contemporary artists exploring traditional craft techniques…

“Over recent years there has been a craft resurgence, which probably started when Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize for his contemporary ceramics in 2003. Before then craft was perhaps not seen as ‘high art’, but now lots of contemporary artists are using a traditional craft focus in their work.

Polly Morgan’s Rest a Little on the Lap of Life is a contemporary craft work which offers a new interpretation of what you might expect to find in an 18th century Queen Anne townhouse like this.

Pallant House is a collection of collections; from the original personal collection bequeathed by Walter Hussey in 1977 to those we have inherited and the temporary works we have on loan from private collectors. Polly’s taxidermy is from a private collector and it helps to transform Pallant House into a cabinet of curiosities.

Julie Brown with Polly Morgan's Rest A Little On The Lap Of Life

I have a particular interest in contemporary art by female artists. I find Polly Morgan interesting because she prompts a re-evaluation of taxidermy – she is the same age as me and is a fully-qualified taxidermist and member of the Guild of Taxidermists. I don’t think taxidermy is a profession you would normally associate with a young woman.

Polly is quite trendy – her work is collected by people like Kate Moss and she is very modern and ‘now’, so it’s even stranger to associate her with taxidermy. She didn’t really train as an artist, I think she worked as a bar manager in London and only began working as an artist in 2005.

It was her passion for animals and wanting to preserve and honour them that led her to study taxidermy. It is perhaps a little controversial now to have stuffed animals within a gallery space and it can be the source of upset for some people, but Polly only uses animals which have been ‘ethically sourced’; perhaps road casualties or donations from vets and pet owners after natural or unpreventable death. I imagine the rat in her work was a pet – it doesn’t look like a wild rat.

I remember as a child visiting traditional natural history museums. I was absolutely terrified of the dark rooms with scary, creepy, large animals recreated as they were supposed to be in their fake natural setting.

I always found it quite wrong and a bit strange because they were trying to make it seem like they were alive. I was terrified and hated it.

But now, in the context of Pallant House, what I formerly found creepy has become beautiful. Polly Morgan isn’t using taxidermy in the same traditional way. She tries to show the creature’s natural beauty but doesn’t attempt to recreate the way they were.

She says her animals are caught in between half life and death. She is fascinated by death and mortality and she celebrates the deceased rat as a beautiful aesthetic object; a work of art to be seen in a new light.

It’s fitting to have taxidermy in a West Sussex setting where hunting would have been very much part of the culture. It is befitting of the house but in a contemporary way. She isn’t mimicking the rat’s natural setting – instead, she puts it within an unexpected and imaginative setting, challenging you to see things differently.

We are used to seeing taxidermy specimens in glass cases but the delicate glass dome, together with the chandelier and champagne glass, is altogether more warm and intimate.

This particular piece works really well being situated in the bedroom of the grand domestic house. It is as if the rat lives here and there is something oddly comforting about the way it rests, hugging itself inside its little champagne glass, under its own chandelier.

Polly has given the rat a domestic space of its own within the larger domestic space of Pallant House, making the rat look very small and vulnerable.

I think the rat is supposed to look asleep – having a rest in this decadent house. Obviously the rat is something you think of as vermin, but she succeeds in making it look beautiful.

If you just hear about the piece you would certainly be dubious. You really need to come and see it.”

Contemporary Eye: Crossovers is at Pallant House Gallery until March 6 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Art, Craft, Interviews, Places to Go, Places Worth Visiting, Taxidermy

Pallant House’s Staircase to design heaven in Sussex | Culture24

Since 2006, Chichester’s Pallant House has been commissioning artists to redesign its 18th century stairwell. Kirstie Brewer takes a look back at the dazzling stars, mussel shells and international artists who have had a go.

Pallant House Gallery has undergone a bold transformation this month, with contemporary art works being moved into the gallery’s original 18th century house.

This exciting fusion of the traditional and the contemporary took off in 2006 when Pallant House Gallery reopened and took the controversial decision to commission artists of today to create an installation in the main staircase of the gallery’s Queen Anne townhouse.

The imposing building was born out of the marriage of convenience between Henry Peckham, an ambitious yet disreputable 27-year-old, and Elizabeth Albery, a widow in her early 40s, and was designed to impress.

The love lost between the couple in their marriage was matched only by the dedication each poured into finishing the house, leaving a permanent mark on the city of Chichester.

Spencer Finch's Evening Star is the latest addition to the ancient stairwell at Chichester's Pallant House

October 2010 – October 2011

Spencer Finch, Evening Star

Spencer Finch’s Evening Star is the fifth installation to grace the stairwell since 2006. Like the other four, this dazzling new commission demands your attention and brazenly thrusts modern art into dialogue with historic architecture.

The startling starburst chandelier manipulates light and perception and takes its name and inspiration from a painting by JMW Turner at the National Gallery.

The original painting captures the moment when day turns into night and the first star of the evening can be seen; at first barely discernable and soon supplanted by the stronger light of the moon.

The Evening Star is in reality not a star, but instead the planet Venus which reflects light from our sun and moon.

Finch studied infrared maps recorded by the NASA Galileo Spacecraft of the false colour reflected from Venus and translated the proportional breakdown of colours into the bands of colour which make up the installation.

Across the courtyard, in the new wing of the Gallery, the artist has created a corresponding light installation called Passing Cloud After Constable.

Each installation can be seen from the other, thereby connecting the historic and contemporary architecture and also Finch’s inspirations – Turner, whose work was concerned with light, and Constable, whose work was concerned with shade.

Francisco Toledo's Papalotes

May – September 2010

Francisco Toledo (part of Surreal Friends), Papalotes

Francisco Toledo, one of Mexico’s most elusive and controversial artists, created a vibrant display of art kites, or “papalotes” to coincide with the Centenary of the Mexican Revolution and the Bicentenary of Mexican independence.

A fierce advocate of the cultural heritage of his native state, Oaxaca, Toledo’s kites reflected his interests in the history and mythology of Mexico. The dream-like images, with hazy Kafkaesque associations from childhood, fluttered down playfully from the ceiling.

Antonio Rodriguez Rivera, co-curator of the installation, said Toledo combined “the magic of the coastal culture with a strong sensuality which makes you smile and humanise all living creatures.”

June 2009 – May 2010
WOKmedia, A New Breed

WOKmedia's A New Breed ran for a year from June 2009

WOKmedia, a collective established in 2004 by artists Julie Mathias and Wolfgang Kaeppner are interested in “emotional dimension, an archetypal memory or a
physical sensation” and “the state of flux where chaos begins to make sense”.

They responded to the historic setting with a subversive play on traditional Chinese craftsmanship. Their delicate, large-scale porcelain eggs revealed hand painted depictions of Chinese erotic art from inside their broken shells.

Traditionally, these intimate images were produced by highly skilled craftsmen, who painted through a small opening in the porcelain egg that would conceal the scene and allow only one person at a time to view the imagery.

By daring to expose what is intended to be private, WOKmedia brought notions of sexuality and liberalisation in China into the public domain.

Autumn Flowers by Nina Saunders

November 2007
– Spring 2009
Nina Saunders, Autumn Flowers

“Pallant House Gallery is a place where art is nurtured, where old and new merges, radical transformations occur and every button counts,” said Danish artist Nina Saunders.

She quite literally turned conventional upholstery and craft on its head with her imposing installation, which blended nature with domestic and social culture.

Hanging gargantuan from the ceiling above and made from swathes of traditional William Morris fabric, Saunders’ installation proved to be a potent addition to the house and was viewed with much amusement and contemplation.

Susie Macmurray's Shell installation

July 2006 – August 2007
Shell: An Installation by Susie MacMurray

A sumptuous sight to behold. Twenty thousand mussel shells each individually inlaid with rich swabs of velvet adorned the stairwell, making a magnificent impact.

Inspired by the grandiose design of the townhouse staircase and intrigued by the turbulent love-hate relationship between Elizabeth and Henry Peckham, Susie MacMurray created the work to reflect the stories and histories within Pallant House Gallery.

“The house itself seemed like a vessel lined with aspirations; a container to express passions unfulfilled in the Peckham’s lives,” she explained.

“It is the hard shell that remains as its occupants live their messy human lives and then pass through.”

  • To find out more about Pallant House and Gallery visit their website

Pallant House’s Staircase to design heaven in Sussex | Culture24.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Culture24, History and Heritage, Places to Go

Child at Heart

Charlie and Lola may be celebrating their tenth birthday, but as Kirstie Brewer discovers, their creator Lauren Child has no intention of growing up

Lauren Child with her most popular creations, Charlie and Lola

Within minutes of talking to Lauren Child I can tell that she isn’t like most adults. Mainly because she hasn’t forgotten how it feels to be a fouryear-old child. She understands the anguish of eating vegetables and she hasn’t forgotten what fun it is to blow bubbles in your milk through a straw.

“We are all only one step away from childhood really, so there are no absolute boundaries between me as I am now and what I was like as a child – when I get told off in a shop for touching something, it still makes me feel about seven!” she giggles.

Possessing this rare instinct about the illogical logic of small children has no doubt helped her in becoming one of today’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators. This year Child is celebrating
10 years since Charlie and Lola, her most famous creation, burst onto the scene in the award-winning picture book I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. The sibling duo were an instant hit with both children and adults, spawning a global animated TV series, spin-off books and merchandise.

Child’s runaway success has earned her a place in a new exhibition at The Lightbox in Woking, Escape to Wonderland: A History of Children’s Book Illustration. Charlie and Lola star alongside the likes of
Elmer the Elephant, Rupert Bear and Raymond Briggs’s Snowman in a display that boasts more than 100 iconic works from three centuries.

Child recently held a talk and book signing at The Lightbox as part of the gallery’s celebrity lecture series and, interestingly, her audience was made up in the main of young 30-something women.

“I suppose adults might like the aesthetics of my books,” she muses. “They have quite a retro, 70s feel to them that harks back to my own childhood.”

With their swirling typography and mishmash of collage and quirky drawing, Child’s Charlie and Lola books are certainly stylish things to behold.

“Children like to be read the same books over and over, so it helps if the adult who reads them enjoys them too. It would get terribly dull otherwise,” she says. Child is repeatedly asked why it is that she creates children’s books and yet has no children of her own. “That question always bemuses me – having children has got nothing to do it!” As she rightly points out to me, she was once a child herself and that is all the validation she needs.

“I get my inspiration from people watching and always staying curious.” Ironically, it is often her observation of adult behaviour that sparks the ideas for her children’s books. She believes there is an inner child in everyone.  “When you are little, the smallest of things can be the biggest deal; everything is for the first time and you have no control or independence. But I often see those same sorts of feelings reflected in the faces of adults, especially when they are queueing or travelling.”

Child first got the idea for Charlie and Lola when sitting opposite a little girl on a train in Denmark.

“She had eyes like a pixie and looked very sweet in her little dress. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but something about her was mesmerising,” she recalls. “I think about that little girl on the train a lot; it’s strange to think she is out there somewhere and has no idea that Charlie and Lola is all because of her.”

Lauren Child is quite childlike herself. Her voice is light and girlish with a slight lisp; her words are peppered with the same adverbs that are adored, terribly, by her creation Lola. There is an endearing lack of self-importance about her.

Yet this is a woman who has plenty to be proud of –the MBE she was awarded this year for her services to literature, for starters.

The world Charlie and Lola inhabit is distinctly, and deliberately, not the world of today. Child has instead bestowed upon the duo a childhood like her own.

“I wanted to capture how children will play together imaginatively by themselves without the help of adults – that’s why grown-ups don’t appear in my Charlie and Lola books,” she explains.

Whilst she likes the Charlie and Lola TV series, she admits to being attached to her characters and finding it “rather
strange” to see them having a “more sanitised version of childhood”.

“For example, all small children stand on chairs. That’s a fact,” she says. “But because the BBC has certain health and
safety guidelines, Lola can’t stand on chairs now, and she often has to eat banana slices rather than salt and vinegar crisps,” she sighs wistfully.

Unlike the original books, the TV series is careful to make frequent reference to the fact that Charlie and Lola are under constant adult supervision, for example if they walk to school or take a bath.

“Apparently this is to reassure children who might worry about where Charlie and Lola’s mum is,” Child explains. “But children don’t need to be patronised because they are amazingly intuitive. I don’t think adults should worry as much,” she says – in a way that makes grown-ups sound very silly indeed.

Lauren Child will be at The Lightbox on Nov 20, 2–4pm. Escape to Wonderland: A History
of Children’s Book Illustration is on until Jan 2. Visit: www.thelightbox.org.uk

Click to CLICK TO READ THE ARTICLE AS PUBLISHED IN THE GUILDFORD MAGAZINE

Leave a comment

Filed under Illustration, Interviews, Literature