4 January 2014

Pre-Xmas London trip - Somerset House and Tate Modern

My pre-xmas London trip was not intended for christmas shopping. I had exhibitions to attend, work to do and friends to meet. A friend I had met in Thailand wanted me to do onsite massage at the casting agency where she worked as a Christmas present to her colleagues on the Friday night. My train journey down was interesting. I met a woman who home schooled the half-naked children who were running around the carriage. At first I was horrified when i found my sea, as the whole area around it resembled a bomb site strewn with discarded clothes, toys and rubbish bags. After about an hour or so of listening to music, trying to drown the noise out, I thought i might try and have a conversation with her as she looked pretty interesting. I'd noticed that her kids had no problem at all chatting to adults and seemed super confident. She had strong opinions on mainstream schooling and we had an interesting conversation about the importance of creativity in schooling and the problems that her children had faced in a mainstream setting, which was why she decided to take care of it herself. The fact that they were home-schooled did not seem to affect their social skills - they were the most sociable kids I'd seen! The family lived in a camper van in Dorset and lived off the land - i loved her philosophy on things and took a lot away from the conversation. A good reason to get chatting on public transport!

I wasn't staying and my sisters this weekend, and decided to check in to a couple of hostels (London Bridge and Greenwich St Christophers Inns) in different areas to see more of the city and hopefully meet some interesting people. I got off at Kings Cross and dragged my suitcase to Somerset House, on of my favourite places to check out the Isabella Blow - Fashion Galore! exhibition and to watch the ice skating (I wanted to do it but chickened out - as per usual). I checked in my bag and marvelled for two hours at the tragic yet exciting and full life of Blow, demonstrated via clothes, catwalk shows, hats, childhood history and personal effects. Her professional and personal bond with Alexander McQueen and Phillip Treacy was displayed in such a fitting way to this inspiring woman. I hadn't realised about the job she had done (stylist at Vogue etc) and the amount of work she did championing British designers. I loved looking at her things - shoes, business cards, diaries.

The mirrored tiled image of her at the entrance of the musuem was perfect. The devil was in the detail. The mannequins, sporting her trademark red lips were stunning and perfectly suited to the outfits that were instantly recognisable from McQueen's major collections and books on his life. I had just read an article in Vogue about mannequins and their importance in the fashion industry which encouraged me to look at them as well as the clothes. I was amazed at the amount of thought that goes into them and the money the top designers are prepared to pay to get the perfect models for their shop windows. The hats were jaw-dropping, especially the fairytale castle. I sat cross-legged on the floor watching McQueen's catwalk show dedicated to Isabella after she killed herself. You can also watch his first collection - where she sat on steps because it was so packed and then bought the entire collection (paying him back each week) such was the faith she had in him.

Their friendship was fashion fate, and their fates turned out to be very similar, even though the method of suicide was different. (Blow - drinking weedkiller, McQueen slashing his arms then hanging himself). It seems like one just simply did not function without the other. Walking around, realising the impact she had and the fun she must have had , it was difficult not to be a little sad. I left feeling uplifted by the amazing fashion and saddened that we live in a world with two amazing talents.

lips fashion galore mcqueen

No time to hang around crying, another exhibition to go to. Paul Klee - Making Visible at the Tate is a visual treat. The canvasses might be small but the impact of this German-Swiss Bauhaus innovator is not to be underestimated.  His story is just as interesting as the paintings, set against a background of war, the effects of musicality on his art and his work at the Bauhaus school.

I generally tend to identify with anyone who was on a certain path then goes with their heart - he abandoned music to study art in Munich. He struggled with colour initially but when he got it, boy did he get it. His use of colour and such a variety of media (oil paint, ink, pencil, etching, watercolour, pastel) is breathtaking. I still struggle to see the past in colour, and some of these artists saw it far more brightly than people today.

A piece I particularly liked was "Dispute"(1929) which in abstract perfectly illustrates a head on confrontation. Remembrance Sheet of a Conception (1918) is also amazing. I love Kandinsky and enjoyed finding out more about their friendship and the deep trust between the two artists.  A large majority of Klee's work was set against the backdrop of war, which he felt reflected his own internal struggle.  It made sense that he sought refuge in abstract art - "the more horrible this world, the more abstract our art."

dispute     klee  rem

I identify with the fact that he had his struggles - going against his family to follow his passion, World Wars 1 and 2 and the loss of some artist friends in the conflict, being classed as a degenerate by the Nazis - who caused him to lose his house and job, his dealer being forced to close his galleries because he was a Jew, his fight to be granted Swiss citizenship, and his battle with an auto-immune disorder which eventually killed him. In spite of all of this, his passion for art always carried him through during his life  The exhibition shows his journey as he would have wanted people to see it - with the central focus on his time teaching at the modernist Bauhaus school. It is bursting with vivacity, colour and spirit - and is guaranteed to uplift and inspire people to find out more about this modern master.

Thoroughly exhausted  after two amazing exhibitions, I spent a nice evening eating Mexican food to die for at Wahaca and then hitting a cool independent cinema in Covent Garden.

Wahaca's menu is themed on Mexican market eating, co-owned by Masterchef winner Tomasina Myers. Sourcing seasonal products and flavour are their main priorities. It certainly doesn't disappoint on freshness or flavour. I love street food anyway but this was delicious, and it was even better to be able to sit down and enjoy it without rushing. My friend and I decided to have a sharing platter for a tenner each which involved pork pibil tacos, winter veg tacos, black bean tosadas (amazing), chicken taquitos and quesadillas. The flavours were amazing and it was great to be able to try lots of different combinations. Top it off with a passionfruit Margarita and you're in heaven. Even though we were stuffed I couldn't resist the churros with chocolate and caramel sauce, plus a cheeky chilli chocolate tequila toddy, which was absolutely delicious, just to sip with the churros.

wahaca

Wahaca

Completely chilled out by dinner, we then headed to the Curzon cinema in Soho to see Blue is the Warmest Colour, to see what all the fuss was about. The cinema is perfect for film buffs or fans of world/independent cinema who like a different experience to the multiplex. The chain also allows you to see films on the day of release in the comfort of your own home - inspired - with Curzon Home Cinema. You create an account and pay each time you watch new releases or older movies. They have also teamed up with HMV in Wimbledon to show films upstairs alongside a cafe/bar, and are creating new cinema experiences all over London. The film was probably the best I've seen all year, showing the brutal reality of relationships (please see separate review). Go and see it. Especially if you go somewhere tasteful like this.

curzon

Overall - a fantastic weekend!

Isabella Blow - Fashion Galore! Somerset House until 2nd March 2014 - £12.50 adults. http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/

Paul Klee- Making Visible - Tate Modern until 9th March 2014 Adult £16.50 http://www.tate.org.uk/

Wahaca - 66 Chandos Place, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4HG- http://www.wahaca.co.uk/

Curzon cinema - Soho 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 5DY Adult ticket pric£13 http://www.curzoncinemas.com/cinemas/

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