Chez l'abeille

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


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The Art of Observation

I bought my most recent camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC GX7, in October before I headed off to Iceland. I wanted something that would take the pictures I could see and my long standing point and shoot just wasn’t cutting it any more. I thought I was fairly au fait with the workings of a SLR based camera, having used my beloved Pentax for years, but the ease of the totally automatic button has left me doing little more than, well, pointing and shooting.

P1000810

The roof top gardener

So last Sunday morning I headed off through early morning London to meet my friend Kathy on the roof top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. If you haven’t wandered up the yellow concrete stairs to this little urban oasis I heartily recommend it. Currently the South Bank Centre is running a series of Sunday photography workshops with photographer Ollie Smallwood – this was the reason for getting up early! Ollie has been photographing the garden and the team of volunteers who look after for a while now, which meant he was well placed to get the best out of our ideas.

The group was small so we had time to talk and share ideas, experiences and cameras, which ranged from mobile phones to high end digital SLRs! What I loved most was that we didn’t spend a lot of the 2 hours taking pictures, which might seem odd, but in the end made perfect sense.

Our first task was to walk around and simply look. We were encouraged to think carefuly about what we wanted to photograph before whipping our camera from pocket or bag. Freed from the view through a lense, I felt more able to focus and open to the nuances of the space around me and the endless possibilties for pictures there were.

“slow down and value each picture you take”

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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


Everyday art #3: Battersea Brick

Battersea Power Station linocutHaving lived in London for so long, I was compelled several years ago to buy a London artwork. This turned out to be a linocut print of Battersea Power Station by a London based artist I have long admired: Paul Catherall.

Now, many people will have seen a Paul Catherall print without realising they have. London Transport have a long history of commissioning artists to design their posters and over the years I have spotted many a Catherall design on tube platforms and bus stops. Recently a new set of posters has been revealed, which once again showcase his arresting artworks across the city.

I remember being allowed to gouge out lino tiles at school to make simple relief prints, using a set of near lethal cutters. A few years ago I spent hours carving a rather rustic lino cut design, solely in black and white, for a party invite. It wasn’t easy! Looking at my print, “Battersea Brick” the degree of artistry and skill needed to create the sharp lines of the brickwork and the creamy tones on the curved chimneys is apparent. I love the way the image conveys the heaviness of this immense brick built building, sitting squat and immoveable, whilst its airy white chimneys reach skywards. With artful shapes and colours, the complexity of this iconic building is captured in all it’s glory.

I was lucky enough to visit Battersea Power Station in 2011, when the landmark building was opened for a rare public viewing. Comparing the photos I took then with my print, I can only assume that Paul Catherall was standing in almost the same place as I was! For many people living in London, including me, the power station is one of the last great iconic industrial buildings, but now with the redevelopment of the area and the building itself, it seems we will start to lose the open space around it and this iconic view will be permanently altered.

I was also excited to read about a current retrospective exhibition of Paul Catherall’s work at For Arts Sake, the Printmakers Gallery in Ealing. It’s worth the trip!  Battersea Brick isn’t included so I can only assume the edition has long sold out. The exhibition is on until May 17th 2015.

You can also see more of Catherall’s work on the gallery’s pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/forartssakeuk/printmaker-paul-catherall/

©Chez l’abeille 2015