Chez l'abeille

Culture. Travel. Writing. My world in words and pictures


The Streets of London: Chihuly at Kew Gardens.

During the Easter break we were fortunate to have some extraordinarily unseasonable weather – the sun shone, the sky was a bright summer blue and the thermometer rose – so this seemed the perfect opportunity to see an outdoor glass installation by a favourite artist.

The Dale Chihuly Exhibition, “Reflections on Nature” at The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a sequence of artworks, both indoors and nestled within the famous glasshouses. It took a couple of hours of gentle strolling to see them all and to spend time really looking at these beautiful works within the natural environment.


As well as seeing the installations in the garden, we visited the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art (located inside Kew and included as part of your ticket). There is a large exhibition of classic pieces by Chihuly, some of which I already knew. However, I particularly liked seeing his drawings, which detail the swirls and undulations of the final pieces with an immediacy that is fascinating.

As I write this post, the weather has turned into Storm Hannah, wet, cold and far more like April. However the spirit of these wonderful works is continuing to keep a warm glow inside me. Later in the year there will be the chance to see them lit up at night. Something tells me I’ll be going!

The installation will be at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until 27th October 2019

©Chez l’abeille  2019

The House of Dreams.

Step through this gateway and you will find yourself in The House of Dreams.

Front garden (9)I could try to describe the house and tell you all about Stephen Wright, the artist who has created and shaped this amazing work, but I’m not going to. Instead, as a tiny snapshot of this world apart, I’m going to show you some of the photographs Stephen very generously let me take before the most recent open day got underway.

Then I’m going to invite you to make a cup of tea, take some time out and let Stephen explain his work to you personally. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did. So go on – open the gate and step into the courtyard…

Now go through the front door and into the hallway. Memories surround you: Personal thoughts and immense feelings laid bare.

Peep through the archway – colours and textures draw you inwards. Assembled words and objects create something new from the lost and dispossessed detritus of the world.

The studio floor and walls bridge the space towards the back garden.

In the world of Forensic Science it is often said that “every contact leaves a trace”. The cherished fragments of lives lived and lives living infuse each space and become the very DNA of the house. Challenging, comforting, personal, intimate, human.

This is the House of Dreams.

Many thanks to Stephen and Michael for letting me get in the way while their final preparations for the open day were underway.

You can visit the House of Dreams in East Dulwich on the last Saturday in September or October – Tickets can be purchased via Stephen’s website here.

©Chez l’abeille  2017

The Streets of London: Frieze Sculpture 2017

Anyone who has read my last post and got as far as The Royal Docks may recall me telling you that there was now only the one sculpture there, where there were previously several. It was a surprise to find one of the missing pieces this week, amongst the 25 works that make up the 2017 Frieze sculpture trail in London’s Regent’s Park. Somehow this event had failed to register on my “what’s currently happening” radar, but thanks to some more in-the-know friends and with a sunny staycation day in hand, I was able to cross from south to north to have a look.

‘From the playful to the political, these 25 works explore contemporary sculpture’s material and technical dexterity, together with its social role and reflection on the human condition and our environment’. (Clare Lilley – Yorkshire Sculpture Park Director of Programme and Frieze Sculpture curator)

See what YOU think!

I was most excited by Alicja Kwade’s piece, Big Be-Hide (2017) – unfortunately it would appear that something (or someONE) has managed to crack the mirror and it had been health and safety – ed to the max. I managed to take some reasonable pictures, but to see it in its full glory you need to head to


Frieze Sculpture is free and is open from 5 July to 8 October in the English Gardens, The Regent’s Park, London.


©Chez l’abeille  2017

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The Streets of London: The Line.

Starting the walk southwardsI’m not going to write too much about this walk as it really belongs to Kate, who has cleverly set her friends the year-long challenge of challenging her. Celebrations for significant birthdays occur in different ways and Kate has come up with a genius plan: creating memories through shared experiences. Not being one for the adrenalin fuelled event, my challenge came with art loving and tracking skills required; completing “The Line” ; a sculpture walk between Stratford and the Greenwich Peninsular.

We had chosen August in anticipation of fine summer weather. Heading out with thunderstorms of biblical proportions forecast wasn’t actually part of the plan but somehow we managed to miss the downpours and successfully navigated our way along the back waters of Bow. Here are the highlights.

The River Lea and Cody Dock

It took a little while to get going as signage along the way wasn’t always the easiest thing to decipher – but we followed our noses southwards and headed into unknown territory.

The rains came down just as we had arrived at Cody Dock – a rather fascinating and curiously empty creative quarter which has been developed post London 2012. As if by magic the man operating the cafe appeared so tea and cake kept us occupied until the rains stopped and we navigated our way southwards via the DLR to the Royal Docks.

The Royal Docks

On a previous visit I had seen several artworks around the dock but there is currently only the one so after a quick photo stop we were up, up and away across the Thames via the cable-car!


The Greenwich Peninsular

This is a great section of the walk, which curls around the back of the tent-like O2. The artworks here fit into the environment so well that it could be easy to overlook some of them, especially my favourite,”Here”.

Still dry and now thirsty #ChallengeKate was completed! We headed to the nearest bar and congratulated ourselves with a cocktail in the sunshine.

Happy 50th Kate!!!

©Chez l’abeille  2017



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Mirror, Mirror

Sometimes things just happen. That, I guess is what constitutes a happening. The arrival of a mirror maze in Peckham for one weekend only is always going to be a happening. Add that it’s in the Copeland Park/Bussey Building’s achingly hip enclave and it is always going to be up there in the zeitgeist.

I’m not going to write a lot about the background to the work – there’s a really decent article by Creative Review, which tells you everything you need to know. Briefly, the work is by Es Devlin who has a background in stage design. It’s exploring scent, memory and identity. It’s created in partnership with i-D and Chanel to celebrate creativity from women in arts and culture aross the world.

What it actually is: a really fabulous, immersive, mesmerising artwork!

I’m glad I went down early on the opening day as I think visitors would be queuing round the block by the end of the weekend as word spread. By the time this post goes out it will all be over, but that I suppose is what makes it the best kind of memory – a transient moment of total magic.

©Chez l’abeille  2016




The Streets of London: “Lumiere London”

The sudden plunging temperature and a general sense of January malaise had descended over Chez L’Abeille when out of the ether came a glimmer of light – Lumiere London.

For four chilly winter nights the street of London have been bathed in neon lights and beautiful projections. I went along with three equally layered up friends to the Piccadilly, Regent Street and Mayfair section on the Thursday opening night. We were  completely enchanted by both the lights and the convivial atmosphere. On this near freezing mid-January night, London behaved like it was on holiday. Everywhere we walked, people helped each other with hard to find locations and just chatted about the artworks. How unlike our usual grumpy selves we all were; there was clearly magic in the air.

Luminéoles by Porté par le vent

Les Lumineoles floating in a musical dreamspace

The main roads around Piccadilly and Mayfair were closed which meant there was lots of space to stand and wonder at the spectacle and beauty of the installations. My particular favourites were KeyFrames in Regent Street and Les Luminéoles in Piccadilly. Both were mesmerising for different reasons. Les Luminéoles is a floating, dreamlike piece, using more traditional puppetry skills and human operators (who battled well in the brisk wind that was freezing us half to death!). KeyFrames on the other hand was just funny; a story told through the antics of the animated stick people, who danced, somersaulted and chased each other across the Liberty House facade with increasing complexity. Continue reading


A river runs through it.

“Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew –
Wanted to know what the River knew,
Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,
For they were young, and the Thames was old
And this is the tale that River told:”  Rudyard Kipling

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.” William Henry Davies

I think living in London we tend to take the River Thames for granted – it’s just always there, coming in and going out on a daily basis without too much trouble for Londoners.  There is always a small worry of floods but we’ve got the Thames Barrier to deal with that eventuality (I think).

However, once a year we turn to look at the Thames and celebrate our river’s existence.

In 2014 the Totally Thames Festival gave us this delight from the renowned Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. It was quirky and fun.

Florentijn Hofman HippopoThames sculpture Florentijn Hofman HippopoThames sculpture

2015 was something else.

The work is called “The rising tide” by underwater eco-sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. Twice a day at low tide they are completely revealed, then through the day they submerge and re-emerge with the regularity of the tide.

I saw them first at lowest tide by myself which allowed me to look closely at the details of the sculptures, but then went back with some friends to watch as the tide came in.

For over an hour we stood watching the river as the tidal flow reversed the waterline.

We noticed the patterns of the swirling, incoming water against the embankment and across the sand and stones.

We noticed the subtle changes in the light as the late summer sun set and each rider was illuminated by turn.

We noticed the time it took for the river to rise far enough to lap against the riders feet and legs.

Entranced and delighted; for a little while in our busy schedules, we simply stopped and stared.

©Chez l’abeille 2015

The Thames Festival is on for a further 3 days so catch them if you can.


Decisions, decisions…

The Hayward Gallery is closing very soon for a complete refurb and the final show has been billed as a summer must see, so off I went to see what it was all about.

I have to say I’ve seen Carsten Höller’s work before and have always been a bit undecided about it – so wondered if maybe “Decision”, his latest show would change that. I had also missed out on the infamous Tate modern slides installation in 2007 and this exhibition included a set of slides attached to the side of the Hayward, so with them in mind I had booked my ticket quite a while ago.

The works focus on the choices you make and how you interact with them: Take entrance A or B? Push the “Flying mushrooms” left or right? Swallow the small red and white capsule* from “Pill Clock” or leave not knowing? I started out with a quite a high level of excitement and anticipation, with a degree of trepidation as well!

Choosing door A, I entered a narrow metal passage way which became darker and more disorientating as I trailed my way,  using just my hands on the wall, around the twisting path. At the time I think I was the only person in the intertwined tunnels so didn’t get any sense of others nearby as they wove around the gallery – this gave it a very isolated, eerie feel and I was pretty pleased to pop out into the first gallery. It was then I discovered that photography was allowed (not usual in the Hayward) so I ducked out, courtesy of the very nice staff to grab my phone (excuse picture quality!). Heading back in I was keen to get going again.

Disappointingly, my overall sensation was one of being underwhelmed by the exhibition. Fundamentally the decision the visitor has to make is “do I engage with this work or not”? Whilst a few pieces captured my attention, overall I found my focus wandered and in several cases of overlong queues my decision was to simply pass by. And the slides – by the end I just wanted to leave the quickest way possible. I exited through the gift shop.

(*It’s still in my bag)

Decision – Carston Holler is on at the Hayward Gallery until 6th September 2015

©Chez l’abeille 2015


The Streets of London: Thames Path, North Bank

Casting about for something better to do on a slightly damp, bank holiday saturday I set off to walk the Thames Path National Trail eastwards. This section of the pathway follows the north bank of the Thames which, on my own south-london-centric map of the capital, is generally labelled “here be dragons”, so I reckoned it was worth a look.

Originally this area was predominately industrial, but now is very residential as the warehouses and wharves have been developed and converted into expensive loft apartments. However, the history of the area still lingers in the names of buildings, street names and memorials you pass along the way.

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The streets of London.

To my surprise, I have recently discovered an exciting section of the Transport for London website, headed “Walk London“.

Now, I have always known about some of the designated London walks, such as the Jubilee Walkway, because I have often seen the way markers set into the pavements around the South Bank. However, I have never really looked at the full routes or taken account of the many new routes which have been opened up across the capital in the past few years. So, spurred on by a friend’s random tweet about the Capital Ring Walk, I took advantage of a spare Wednesday in April and set out to walk the Eastern loop of the Jubilee Walkway.  Some of the route I know well, but I hoped that having the focus of a walk plan would provide new vistas or curiosities which have escaped my notice when I am just going from A-B!

The start of the route officially loops from the Tate Modern Art Gallery at Bankside, towards Tower Bridge. However because I know this part of the river very well I started by walking along Southwark Street and cut through Borough Market where I wanted to eat.

Walking along Southwark Street I was intrigued by the Kirkaldy Testing Museum which has a rather magnificent motto carved above the door. Built in 1874 it houses David Kirkaldy’s machinery used to test the strengths of materials. It still functions and the building has open days across the year, so I will have to come back and see it in action! Cutting through the back of Borough Market, I wandered to the Southwark Cathedral side where a fabulous thali from Gujerati Rasoi and a Cinnamon Tree Bakery biscuit awaited.

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Camberwell Beauty ceramic butterfly


The history of the Old Kent Road.

I found myself walking down the Old Kent Road today, in search of builders’ rubble sacks (but that’s another story for another day). Heading home I walked past the old North Peckham civic centre, which currently houses a church. Now I’ve gone past this building hundreds of times on the bus but I don’t think I’ve ever actually stopped to look closely at the large polychrome frieze that decorates the exterior of the building. What a surprise it is.

It is called “The history of the Old Kent Road” and does what it sets out to do, depicting the history of the area from the Romans arriving in Kent to the Canterbury pilgrims on through to modern (60’s) times. The piece is constructed from irregular shaped tiles, with well defined and boldly drawn figures and designs. I particularly liked how each figure had a completely unique face and expression! I also liked the use of the locally named Camberwell Beauty butterfly to form the surround to the entire frieze.

I discovered that, at 1000 feet square, it is the largest secular work by the Polish sculptor, Adam Kossowski (1905 – 1986). Kossowski arrived as a refugee from the Soviet labour camps in England in 1943. This work was designed in 1964 and completed in 1965. It now appears to be under the protection of the Twentieth Century Society.

From the bus it looks rather grimy and unloved. Up close you can see the hand of a skilful ceramicist at work and how beautiful it actually is!

I also liked this blog I found which describes the frieze too .

©Chez l’abeille 2014



Thomas Houseago Large Owl (for B) 2011


YSP: A sculptural wonderland.

I have wanted to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) for quite some time, so a recent visit to Leeds provided the perfect opportunity to go there and see what it is all about. It certainly does not disappoint. With 500 acres of park and woodland and at least 60 works to explore just in the outdoors, there is certainly a lot of ground to cover.

There are intriguing and inspiring artworks everywhere you look, tucked away in small nooks and crannies and standing boldly on the far hilltops. We completed a roughly 4 kilometre circular walk and still only saw a fraction of the works sited within the park. We didn’t even get to the indoor galleries, although after all that walking a well earned cup of Yorkshire tea was certainly in order!

So what did we see? Close to the YSP centre is the country park which contains the Henry Moore collection. The YSP houses one of the largest collections of his work in Europe, many of which were created for the open air. They seem very at home here!

As we worked our way further out to the edges of the park other treasures were revealed. First of all we climbed the Seventy-one Steps by David Nash, then we tripped over the almost invisible Speed Breakers by Hemali Bhuta. These bronze cast tree roots were so subtly embedded into the woodland floor we almost missed them completely! Further on our trail we found several installations by Andy Goldsworthy and the hugely entertaining Basket No 7 by Winter/Hörbelt, which invited us to climb inside and squeeze through the narrow spaces to get to the view at the top.

Heading back to the YSP Centre (for tea!) we came to the Lower Park and the more formal gardens. Here we found several artists we knew, in particular Anthony Gormley, the artist better known for his Bellenden Road bollards.

After several hours of exploring this fabulous place, we only just scratched the surface of what there is  here. It’s not hard to see how they won the 2014 Art Fund Museum of the Year award. It was a day well spent, surrounded by art that challenged, inspired and entertained in equal measures.


©Chez l’abeille 2014

Wooden carved bench peckham

“My heART is in Peckham”

There’s an awful lot of art in Peckham. Just taking a circular walk will show you art by the famous to the unknown, the carefully planned and the instant pop up. Here’s a sample of the things you could see on 31st May 2014.

First of all the newest work on the block: a huge mural painted by Walter Kershaw. Apparently he is dubbed the “original Banksy”. That’ll push the house prices up a notch more then. This end of terrace masterpiece was painted over several weeks during the annual Dulwich Festival.  I’m not entirely certain what the inspiration is – clearly wind and flight play a part! During the festival last year a piece of street art by ROA was added to the side wall of the Victoria Inn. It was based on a small dog in an otherwise unappealing painting. I’m now getting to like this after a rather indifferent start.

Around Bellenden Road there are several art works which were installed during the first wave of gentrification.  These include the famous Anthony Gormley bollards and some mosaic murals which spell out phrases such as “I love Peckham”. A little further down the road is the Petitou Cafe, where the patio terrace is a ceramic tiled map of the area by Loraine Rutt. I have a fabulous A5 sized ceramic map of the area made by Loraine, who has her studio in the Bleinhem Grove studios.

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