Tuesday, 27 December 2011

UGG Australia - Design for a Cause

I'd really appreciate it if anyone could please vote for me in this competition (if you like my design of these UGG boots ofcourse!). It doesnt take long and it can be done through this link or on Facebook or Twitter (until 5th January)....


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Autumnal Sculptures

Please vote for my submission in this UGG Australia competition when voting is open from the 27th December to the 5th January:


Many thanks!

Thursday, 8 December 2011


The Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 exhibition at the Royal Academy makes comparisons between the art and architecture of this intensely innovative period for the avant garde of the newly formed USSR. A taste of things to come is in the courtyard in front of the RA, where there's a (scaled down) recreation of Vladmir Tatlin's proposed Monument to the Third International, also known as 'Tatlin’s Tower' (below):

Much of the architecture inside the exhibition itself is shown through the magnificent contemporary colour photographs of Richard Pare. Despite, or perhaps because of the fact that many of the buildings are derelict and decaying, Pare's photography enhances the cold, functional Modernist 'sleeping beauty' of the buildings. His great use of composition and perspective is evident in both the next two photographs (below) of the Shabolovka Radio Tower (1922) in Moscow and the Gosprom Building (1929) in Kharkov, designed by Vladimir Shukhov and Samuil Kravets respectively.

Shabolovka Radio Tower (detail) (1998), Richard Pare

The tower itself was inspired by the design for 'Tatlin’s Tower'.

Gosprom Building (detail with covered skywalk) (1999), Richard Pare

I like the curvaceous shapes of the slopes and staircases, and the way the natural light works with them, in the interiors of these two buildings (below) again photographed by Richard Pare. These are the Tsentrosoyuz Building designed (in 1929-36) by the renowned (Swiss born) Modernist architect Le Corbusier, and secondly the Chekist Housing Scheme in Ekaterinburg designed (in 1929-36) by Veniamin Sokolov and Arsenii Tumbasov.

Tsentrosoyuz Building (1999), Richard Pare


Chekist Housing Scheme (1999), Richard Pare
This was originally constructed for the officers of the Cheka (the Soviet secret police, which subsequently became the KGB).

Below is the VTsIK Residential Complex in Moscow designed by Boris Iofan (in 1928-31) that was built to house high ranking Communist Party officials, but its the sickle and wheat design on the iron railing (in the foreground) that caught my eye...

VTsIK Residential Complex (1999), Richard Pare

These two interesting paintings by the female artist Liubov Popova are Spatial Force Construction (1920-21) (above) and Painterly Architectonics (1918-19) (below). They both also featured in the Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism exhibtion at the Tate Modern in 2009. I like the sense of intense activity and movement in them.

Jay Merrick's excellent preview of the exhibition for the Independent newspaper expresses just how influential this period of Russian art and (to a greater extent) architecture has been for nearly a century:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Painter at the Court of Milan

The Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery has been billed as this year's 'hottest ticket in town' and 'must-see show.' As a result of this billing it was somewhat spoilt by the fact that it was so incredibly busy, though I appreciate that this will be the case for such a rare chance to see two thirds of his surviving paintings together. Althought it felt like being in Tate Modern's (permanent) Collection Display's on a Saturday or Sunday mid-afternoon, at least in the Leonardo all the visitors were actually coming in to see the art. It is understandable that the exhibition was 'filled out' by artworks that were not by Leonardo himself, when considering that most of Leonardo's pictures produced in Milan have been attributed to his followers in the past.

My highlights of the show included these works, all by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) himself, in order of appearance:

Studies of the human skull (1489)

Pen and ink on paper. The Royal Collection © 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Christ as Salvator Mundi (about 1499 onward)

Oil on walnut. Private Collection
(According to an online Telegraph review of the show, this work was only attributed to the hand of Leonardo in summer this year).

'The Burlington House Cartoon' (about 1499-1500)

Charcoal heightened with white chalk on paper, mounted on canvas. The National Gallery, London

Five character studies ('A man tricked by gypsies') (about 1490-3)

Pen and ink on paper. The Royal Collection © 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Friday, 25 November 2011

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement...

...at the Royal Academy has only a few weeks left of its run, so this is the last chance for any Edgar Degas or ballet fans to see it!

As you enter the exhibition there are 3 enchanting projections of the silhouette of one of Degas' dancer sculptures. These are a recreation of when Degas was said to have shown the painter Walter Sickert a wax sculpture he was working on by shining a light on it whilst slowly turning the figure around.

As the subtitle of the exhibition suggests the Royal Academy expresses how Degas attempted to capture his ballet dancers in motion. One such example of this simple and effective capture of movement is Study of Legs (1873) (below).

Although Degas was evidently an accomplished painter, I prefer his chalk pastel observations, whether they are sketches (above) or complete works (below).

Indeed, many consider him one of the masters of the medium. Above is The Red Ballet Skirts (1895-1901). This beautiful artwork has the softness you would expect from pastel, yet it has enough detail and contrast to not lose its shape or form when viewed from distance. Also the fact that Degas used tracing paper in this work, not a surface that is ideal for chalk pastels, just expresses how much he had mastered the medium.

Another medium that Degas had an appropriate interest in was the pioneering work that was being carried out at the time in both photographing and studying movement and then the development of the moving image itself. The English photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge and the French early film-makers the Lumière brothers (Auguste and Louis) arguably inspired Degas to then even pick up a camera himself. Rare existing evidence of this is in Dancer Adjusting Her Shoulder Strap (1895-6) (below), one of 3 of Degas photos on display.


What is Postmodernism?

In the introductory text to their 'Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 - 1990' exhibition, the V and A state that Postmodernism 'defies definition'. In yet another very well curated show at the museum, they do however make a decent attempt at defining the movement.

An understandable starting point for this is the end of Modernism, that the historian Charles Jencks pronounced dead at 3.32pm on 15th March 1972. This is the time that the Modernist Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St.Louis, Missouri (US) was dynamited. Aside from critical theory written by academics, Postmodernism then began as an architectural movement.

The movements acceptance and use of contrasting styles, from classical to modern, is described by the architect Robert Venturi as 'both/and (rather than either/or)'. The latter arguably describes Modernist ideas, either they are Modernist or they are not. The V and A shows a great example of this Postmodern mix of styles with a recreation of Hans Hollein's façade from Strada Novissima, The Presence of the Past (1980) (below). This was part of the Biennale of Architecture in Venice.

Near to a projection of a clip from Ridley Scott's Postmodernist Blade Runner (1982) film are various displays that artists and designers made out of found materials and objects. My favourite of these is Ron Arad's Concrete Stereo (1983) (below), which links in well with the post-apocalyptic feel of the movie nearby.

I like Peter Shire's Bel Air chair (1981-2) designed for Memphis, the Italian design and architecture group. Whilst being typically kitsch for Postmodern design, it does however stay on the right side of 'tasteful' in my opinion.

Frank Schreiner's 'Consumer Rest Chair' (1990) (below), designed for Stiletto, sums up the increasing consumerism in western society in the late Twentieth Century...

...Indeed, the V and A states in its summary of the exhibition:
'as artists and designers embraced the wealth and status of the 1980's, Postmodernism collapsed under the weight of its own success'.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The creative process is a beautiful thing

'The Power of Making' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum expresses this by not only showing great ideas that have a successful end result, but also some examples of how problems are solved through innovative design. An example of this is the RepRap open-source, self-replicating 3D printer by Dr Adrian Bowyer of Bath University (below). As well as the ability to create a three dimensional form, it also can reproduce identical machines to itself so the product has great potential for environmental sustainability.

RepRap open-source, self-replicating 3D printer (2007-2011), Dr Adrian Bowyer

One of the fashion designers using science to innovate is Dr Manel Torres, who has developed a new substance of which to create garments that potentially has a smaller enviromental impact than traditional methods of creating fabrics. His 'Fabrican' spray-on dress (below) is sprayed on around a frame or directly onto the body that sets to form this interesting material.

'Fabrican' spray-on dress (2010), Dr Manel Torres

Whilst on the subject of unconventional garment materials, these two dresses below are made from audio cassette tape and dressmakers pins respectively.


'Voidness' woven audio-tape dress (2008) (above) is also sewn together using polyester thread. When the magnetic head from a tape player is dragged along the tape it creates a 'garbled, underwater-like sound'.

'Widow' dressmaker pin dress (2009) by Susie MacMurray

Another interesting idea is this Snowflake Address Christmas Card by the Heatherwick Studio (below). One large piece of paper is folded and the recipient's name & address is cut out, so that it unfolds into a beautiful snowflake. The envelope, recipient's details, stamp and then Christmas card all become one.

Snowflake Address Christmas Card (2009) by the Heatherwick Studio

I like the organic design of these Design MGX Fingerprint lampshades (2007) below, designed by Dan Yeffet, one of which is featured in the exhibition. 

The Wooden Textile by Elisa Strozyk (below) is made of many tessellated triangles of wood that together give the impression that its made from fabric. As it can be manipulated to create different shapes it potentially could have many uses, such as a possible garment design or a lampshade (with the light partially coming through where the wood joins together).

Wooden Textile (2011), Elisa Strozyk

As the visitor enters this exhibition, the first thing they actually see is this huge gorilla (below) made out of coat hangers and wire. This visually striking piece is the 'King Silver' gorilla sculpture (2011) by David Mach RA.

My final highlight of the show was Dave Bradbury's 'Bill Bailey' stone book (2010) (below). When you look closely at this book, it becomes apparent that not just the cover but the whole thing is carved entirely from stone! 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The John Martin 'Apocalypse' exhibition at Tate Britain...

...is a devilish visual treat that surveys the work of this Victorian artist whose work was hugely popular with the general public in his lifetime and beyond. Despite this, the critics at the time normally dismissed his work as popularist, gaudy, in bad taste and not painted in the traditions of classical landscape painting. Ironically, now the visitor numbers to this show are generally low and John Martin certainly cannot be considered a household name, whereas some critics of today appreciate his work for the huge influence the spectacularily epic scenes have had on musicians, artists, illustrators and especially film-makers. For example, the accompanying booklet quotes the innovative stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen (from An Animated Life, 2003): 'Martin's work... is striking and visual, illustrating his extraordinary pre-cinematic imagination.' Aside from Harryhausen's Clash of the Titans (1981), other films where his influence can be seen include Ben Hur, Blade Runner, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and some of George Lucas' Star Wars films.

Like many people I had never heard of John Martin before this show, but I was blown away by some of the artworks on display here. One of the paintings where I had to say "Wow!" out loud when my eyes first met it was Belshazzars Feast (1820) below. I like his use of colour, scale and perspective. He is able to create an amazing atmosphere and drama, not just through the central characters in his work, but also smaller elements, such as the contrast between the cold colours of the sky and the moon - and the warm, earthy ones employed elsewhere. For this and 2 other paintings in the room, Tate Britain provide a reproduction of the original booklet that is a key guide to all the features of these artworks, for example the names of the characters and buildings.

Belshazzars Feast (1820)

In the same room (of this chronological exhibition) hangs The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (1822) (below). This was severely damaged in a Thames flood at the Tate (in Millbank) in 1928, but was excellently restored this year for this exhibition. A BBC London news programme featured this story yesterday:

The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum (1822) (before, and after 2011 restoration below)

By the time Martin had also mastered the mezzotint printmaking technique, he was offered a lucrative contract to illustrate John Milton's Paradise Lost poem. One of the prints for that was Satan in Council (1831) (below), which portrays Satan with an audience of his demons. Most of these mezzotints displayed in the exhibition have even more meticulous detail than Martin's paintings.

Satan in Council (1831)

Yet another eye-catching work in the show is Pandemonium (1841), which stands out even further because of its beautiful large frame that Martin himself designed and that is adorned by the sorts of beasts that feature in the artists work.

Pandemonium (1841)

Curiously, Martin had ambitions to be an engineer, which in the context of his popularity as a painter and printmaker almost seems quite random. So in the same room as typical paintings such as Pandemonium (1841), theres also his plans for new railway and sewage systems, that were considered at the time but ultimately rejected. As the river Thames was where waste and sewage went then, there was understandably public concern of the possibility of an ecological disaster, so perhaps there is a link between that and the apocalyptive nature of Martins work. In the next room there is another curiosity, the wonderfully named The Book of the Great Sea Dragons (1840).

Print from the cover of The Book of the Great Sea Dragons (1840) by Thomas Hawkins, that Martin illustrated.

The centrepiece of the exhibition has to be The Last Judgement triptych (1851-3) (below), that is displayed in 2 different ways. Obviously theres the conventional way below, but there's also a light and sound show that was inspired by the way these and other of Martin's paintings that were exhibited at the time. Before and after his death this triptych went on a national and international tour, and was actually seen by an amazing 8 million people worldwide. The booklets I have mentioned before, coupled with this (10 minute) performance (every half hour) help to make this show even more memorable for the visitor.

The Last Judgement triptych (1851-3) (above, and below the 3 parts)

The Plains of Heaven (1851-3)

The Last Judgement (1853)

The Great Day of His Wrath (1851-3)

The Gerhard Richter 'Panorama' exhibition at Tate Modern...

...guides us chronologically through the impressive career of the internationally renowned German artist. In his prolific, almost 50 year long career Richter has created work that includes photorealism, abstract and conceptual art. Though unlike many artists before him, he has continued to create a varied body of work (as opposed to evolving from one phase of his career to another). This helps to make this an interestingly diverse exhibition of just one living artists work.

There are very graphic works, such as Mustang Squadron (1964) (below), that have a border or borders that help to frame the work within the painting itself. In this case just a single one along the bottom is necessary and in almost all cases it reminds me of how designers may mount work (with borders). This painting is not just beautifully executed in terms of the attention to detail, but I also like Richter's subtle use of the green and red hues that edge it away from greyscale. This and other paintings of bombers were inspired by the aerial bombardment of German cities in the Second World War.

Mustang Squadron (1964)

One of the artists to inspire Richter's work was Marcel Duchamp, whose Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 (1912) was the inspiration for Ema (Nude on a Staircase) (1966) below. Richter photographed his wife for this work. Whereas Duchamp's work was from a side viewpoint so that it captured the movement of the womens body, the frontal viewpoint here replaces that with this beautiful delicate blurring of the image.

Ema (Nude on a Staircase) (1966)

I like the atmosphere created in landscapes such as Seascape (Cloudy) (1969) (below) and the haunting Iceberg in Mist (1982) later in the exhibition.

Seascape (Cloudy) (1969)

As is the case with Seascape and Iceberg in Mist, Candle (1982) (below) has a kind of feeling of emptiness, aside from the obvious fact that the whole canvas is painted on but not filled with subject matter.

Candle (1982)

In Betty (1988) below Richter paints his daughter in what the Tate describe, in the exhibitition booklet, as 'the Romantic trope of the figure turning away from the viewer to draw us into the work.'

Betty (1988)

Earlier in the exhibition there's a Richter version of Titian's Annunciation (1535), whereas in Reader (1994) (below) Richter paints his take on Vermeer's A Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (1657-9). His incredible ability to paint in a photorealist style comes to the fore here.

Reader (1994)

Many events both in Richter's personal life, as well as in the wider world, have inspired his work. September (2005) was painted from a photograph 4 years after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre.

September (2005)

The exhibition ends with Richter's Cage paintings from 2006. Although rich in colour and texture, I prefer Haggadah (2006) and his earlier abstract paintings on aluminium for the further depth he is able to obtain in them.

I have not recommended an exhibition of a living artists work at Tate Modern this much since the previous Pierre Huyghe and Fischli & Weiss show's at the gallery (in 2006 & 2006/7 respectively)!


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

My Designersblock 2011 highlights

This years Designersblock, part of the London Design Festival, was held in the Farmiloe Building in Clerkenwell last week. As well as the Puff Up Shop and workshops run by Puff & Flock, my other highlights also included....

Elisabeth Beucher's Siamese Twins costumes:

Originally introduced by Elisabeth Beucher (of Puff & Flock) at the V & A last year, costumes such as the one pictured were just as popular with the visitors as they were for us Puff & Flock interns! It was great fun to see the public's reaction to them, especially in the busy Private View.


This design collective are all graduates from the same MA Textiles Futures course at Central Saint Martins previously attended by all of the Puff & Flock designers. POSTextiles hosted an interesting debate and kicked off the first of the workshops organised by Puff & Flock last week. POSTextiles' extensive research and practice has included the study of nanotechnology and microbiology. Pictured here is the work of Natsai Chieva (above) & Ann-Kristin Abel (below).

Design in Science from Cambridge University:

The Design in Science project is a collaboration between scientists and designers at Cambridge University. Using Biophotovoltaic technology they create energy from the photosynthesis of living organisms, such as the moss used to power the digital clock above and The Moss Table (below).

Yung Kyoo Kim's furniture design:

The seat above can be adjusted to sit or lie down on so that its design fits the contours of the body. The table below can take the form of different shapes depending on the shape of the glass table top that could be placed on it.

Lukas Dahlen of ung8:

I like the way that the blown glass of Lukas Dahlen's light looks as though it still continues to melt into the wooden legs. When you get close to it you can see the burn marks on the wood around the glass, that adds to this effect.

Nadine Spencer's A World of Yesterday's Tomorrows:

This beautiful light is made of hand and laser cut pieces of mountboard that were screen printed on using mixed media. The mirror below it further enhanced its eye-catching effect.

SAFGOS STUDIO's bicycle:

This bicycle that was used as a piece for their show mainly to exhibit the designs on its handlebars is actually quite interesting in its own right too. It was found buried in a field, so its extremely rusty. I like the fragility of parts of it, such as the wheel spokes.