Category Archives: ART + MUSEUMS

London Slant: Art lovers! Dare you visit the dairy with bottle?

I must confess that I had never read Aldous Huxley’s Island. But after an encounter with some giant purple mushrooms at the Dairy Art Centre, I now feel as though I have.

London Slant: The Dairy Art Centre

Surreal sculptures at the Dairy Art Centre.

To explain. Huxley’s 1962 novel concerns a utopia where exotic religions and psychedelia rule. It’s the inspiration behind a similarly named exhibition at the recently opened Dairy Art Centre in Bloomsbury, a gallery of contemporary art.

Tucked away in a tiny backstreet a few steps from the Brunswick Centre bustle, the building is a squat brick structure that once was a milk depository. A suitably white interior shelters behind a chic glass facade fronted by a small sculpture garden.

But if the walls are plain, the exhibition adds pops of colour and excitement, with 70 works by 40 artists including Jake and Dinos Chapman, Peter Doig and Cindy Sherman. This non-selling show spans an eclectic range from sound to mixed media, courtesy of collectors Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm.

Immediately inside is Ai Weiwei’s Map of China, hewn from a Qing Dynasty block of wood. I loved its combination of brutish force and the way its folds and rings suggest a rich past and diversity. Another favourite was Takashi Murakami’s Army of Mushrooms (yes, it was those fun fungi again).

Some works, such as Fang Lijun’s 2007-2008, obviously channel the kaleidoscopic, tropical Island theme. Likewise, Tomas Saraceno’s delightful Flying Garden, made of transparent pillows, was suggestive of a hippy drippy world. Then there was Douglas White’s Crow’s Stove, rearing up like a malevolent palm tree about to transform into a fearful bird.

The relevance of others, such as Adriana Lara’s ink print of a Dunhill cigarette packet, Smoking Kills, was harder to fathom. But that, and works like John Armleder’s handless clocks, were no less intriguing and worthy of their place.

I’ll let my photographs tell the rest of this very visual story, but just add that the gallery offers free guided tours at 3pm on weekends. I can think of no better antidote to the winter chill than casting your mind adrift and becoming marooned on this island of brilliance and wit.

London slant, The Dairy

Works including Cyprien Gaillard’s Untitled (Rim Structure), Sterling Ruby’s RED.R.I.P. and, popping up behind, more of those magic ‘shrooms.

London slant The Dairy Art Centre

Gorgeous creatures float and fly across Fang Lijun’s vast canvas.

London Slant, The Dairy Art Centre

Douglas White’s Crow’s Stone: suggestive of the horrors that might lurk on an island paradise.

London Slant, Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei’s Coca-Cola vase: a Neolithic pot painted by the artist.

London slant, Tomas Saraceno

Flying Garden/Air-Port-City/12SW by Thomas Saraceno: two shiny confections of 12 pillows suspended in space.

The Dairy Art Centre, 7a Wakefield Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 1PG 020 7713 8900, free, until 1 December.

London Slant: What are these extraordinary treasures dug up near Euston Road?

Just opposite a Curry’s store near Euston Road I stepped into wasteland reminiscent of a bomb site—and down into a mysterious, haunting world.

Londn Slant Daniel Silver Dig

Curious “excavated” heads arrayed at the entrance to Dig.

Picking my way across rubble through rampant buddleia I entered the concrete remains of a building lit by a watery sun. Spread out on trestle tables in front of me were strange objects: limbless torsos, severed heads, splintered bones and broken arms. Some resembled Assyrian warriors in the nearby British Museum, with bushy beards and pointed helmets. Others were more like sphinxes or Francis Bacon dissolving men. As I moved through the pieces, they increased in size and stood erect; what began as pathetic fragments stealthily acquired a menacing air.

Daniel Silver Dig, London Slant

Gods, ghouls or something altogether different? What are these mysterious figures near Euston Road?

Metal steps led down to a dank undercroft, where heads on plinths loomed out of puddles of mud. Two god-like statues rose from still waters, one in flowing robes and with hands clasped as if in prayer. If this was the ancient temple in Mesopotamia it calls to mind it would be on every tourist beat. But why should it be any less evocative that most of these objects were made this year and set up in a derelict London basement area open to the rain?

This was one of many things that came to mind as I made my way through artist Daniel Silver’s Dig. Despite all appearances this is no Middle East excavation site, or even remains of Roman Londonium—but his latest site-specific installation.

Silver explains that his work was inspired by the collection of antiquities amassed by Sigmund Freud and now displayed at the museum in his Hampstead house. Many of the bearded faces seem to represent the Viennese psychoanalyst, and add another layer of meaning to Dig.

Daniel Silver Dig

Freud would surely have been intrigued by this priapic figure.

The installation was commissioned by Artangel, those well-named people who have brought us many celestial works over the years. Perhaps you saw Roger Hiorns’ Seizure, a mass of sparkling copper sulphate crystals that turned an abandoned south London council house into an Aladdin’s Cave. Dig is equally other-worldly, leading you from a dull, abandoned, urban void into a magic kingdom of the mind.

Daniel Silver Dig

Watch out for the mud or you may make a Freudian slip.

Dig by Daniel Silver, Grafton Way, on an old Odeon Cinema site opposite University College Hospital. Free. Until 3 November.

London Slant: The art of the dinner deal

Summer is traditionally open season for London restaurant deals. It’s the time of year (along with January) for swanky dinners without fear of fainting at the bill. So, come August, I was off, grabbing all those special offers while the sun shone.

We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Nor will you get a value menu at a decent (let alone great) restaurant at 8pm on a Saturday night. But 6.30 pm on a Monday is fine by me. And I’ll happily have my post-prandial espresso in the lounge if the table needs turning for those with pockets deeper than mine.

London Slant -Savoy Grill

The famous hotel sign just above the entrance to the Savoy Grill.

So, first up was the Savoy Grill. Well, wouldn’t it have been churlish to ignore Gordon Ramsay’s £26 three-course dinner with champagne?  I knew it was going to be fun the minute I stepped inside and into what seemed like a glamorous 1920s film set. The bubbly sparkled, and dull-sounding dishes (root vegetable salad followed by ravioli) sprung to life in my mouth with unusual herbs and spices, delicious dressings and flavoursome sauces. A millefeuille with crunchy-crisp wafers layered with luscious fruits and cream brought the evening to a decadent end.

I loved the retro decor of the Savoy Grill, but was less enthused by the recent makeover of the rest of the hotel. Where they got some of the artwork from (a Far East factory?) I dread to think. Much more to my my visual taste was my next port of call: Tramshed in Shoreditch. I do like to see a pickled cockerel and cow above my table (thank you, Damien Hirst) when I’m dining out on chicken salad and steak frites. And especially when a cocktail and Ronnie’s amazing apple pie are thrown in for £16.

London Slant Tramshed

Damien Hirst’s pickled cockerel and cow dominate the carnivorous carnival at Tramshed, Shoreditch.

Scanning the menu I spotted all sorts of nifty prix fixe treats year-round. So I plan to return for more simultaneous eating and art appreciation. I’m fired up to try Indian Rock chicken curry, for instance, and more of Ronnie’s puds. Then there’s the Chapman Brothers’ wallpaper and the Cock n’ Bull Gallery in the basement downstairs . Even the staff’s T-shirts are a collection of works of art.

But now here comes the good news. We’re well into September, but the deals haven’t stopped. If anything, they’re popping into my inbox even faster than before. I’ve had a free bottle of Prosecco to celebrate my birthday at Pizza Express  (I recommend the crispy-thin Da Morire Romano pizza – truly to-die-for – in their Coptic Street branch, a former dairy with patterned tiles).

Maybe some geek inside my laptop has marked me out as a sucker who can’t resist a tempting offer. Whatever, next week I’m off to the Cinnamon Club (a 3-course Indian menu, with cocktail, for £24). It’s adjacent to the Palace of Westminster and is known as a haunt of Lords and MPs. Could the parliamentary recess possibly have any bearing on my deal?

I found my deals via Time Out, Top Table and direct from Pizza Express.

London Slant: Rush to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum

While Britain dithers over whether to build Boris Island or expand Heathrow I hear that Holland’s Schipol is positioning itself as London’s major airport. If so, maybe the reopening of the Rijksmuseum can be considered London’s hottest new cultural event.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Henry Moore exhibition in the gardens of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

So hop on a plane and head to Amsterdam fast. Because the museum has reopened after a 12-year closure with a stunning temporary Henry Moore show. It’s the icing on the rich and delicious cake that’s the makeover of the museum itself.

I arrived at the Rijksmuseum entrance as a rush hour stream of cyclists pedalled past. Their campaign to stop the proposed blocking of this route through the heart of the building was partly why the museum remained closed so long. I’d been warned there were huge queues to enter, but when I arrived at 9.05 I walked straight in.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The Gallery of Honour, with Rembrandt’s Night Watch at the far end.

I hot-footed it to the Gallery of Honour where Dutch old masters are arrayed. It’s a magnificent sight, with alcoves of Golden Age works leading up to Rembrandt’s Night Watch, dramatically displayed at the far end.

When the museum was built in 1885  the names of featured artists were inscribed high on this gallery’s walls. The rehang of this revered space reveals a fascinating change of tastes. Frans Hals and Jan Steen are still here, Hobbema has gone and Vermeer (who, unbelievably, was unrated) has now been brought in. It’s wonderful to see his milkmaid calmly pouring from her jug centre stage—especially since I’d pipped the heaving scrum and had her all to myself.

The entire museum gets my resounding thumbs up for its brilliant integration of fine and decorative arts. The story of the Netherlands, against the backdrop of the sea, is vividly conveyed through skilful juxtapositions of paintings and objets d’art. Showcases of vases, clocks and pieces of furniture are set among pictures of similar age and style. I thrilled to items that would never normally grip me, such as silverware and porcelain.

The building itself is a treat. I followed an architecture trail that led from the decorative neo-Gothic Great Hall, with its stained glass windows, to the new Asian Pavilion, where works are displayed in zen-like calm.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Holland’s ties to the sea are visible throughout the Rijksmuseum. Objects mirror paintings throughout.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Paintings are matched with fabulous drinking cups covered in swirling sea creatures emerging from the waves.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Shiva Nataraja (King of the Dance), part of the excellent Asian collection, now has a stylish, light-flooded home.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

A row of dazzling kimonos, ancient and modern.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The greenhouse supplies salads for the museum cafe.

When the Rijksmuseum closed for the evening I headed into its gardens, where the Moores were bathed in sun. I peeped into the greenhouse where vegetables for the lunches served in the museum cafe are grown. Then it was on to Sama Sebo, the Indonesian restaurant next door, for a first rate rijstafel. Fortunately I’d booked a table: it was shoulder-to-shoulder—just as the space in front of the Night Watch had become.

*Check out City Airport for an Amsterdam flight: save time and outrageous train fares to larger airports. Henry Moore is on until 29 September.

London Slant: Walk with Vincent van Gogh through Brixton

“I walk here as much as I can…it’s absolutely beautiful here (even though it’s in the city).”  This is how Vincent van Gogh described his neighbourhood when he lived in London as a 20-year-old man. The Dutchman arrived here in 1873 and spent several months working as an art dealer, well before he headed to Paris and Provence. Some of his first stirrings as an artist date back to his London years, when he discovered illustrations in newspapers that would later inspire some of his masterpieces in paint.

Van Gogh Walk

Lavender, irises and olive trees on the street that’s become the Van Gogh Walk.

Now his compliment to the area in Brixton where he lodged has been repaid. A short street opposite his home has been turned into Van Gogh Walk, a garden oasis with planting inspired by his paintings. There are irises and lavender, and trees arranged to mirror his famous cypresses. Art installations and sculptured seats reinforce the theme. I don’t doubt that some sunflowers are sprouting as I write.

Van Gogh in London

Trees inspired by Van Gogh’s paintings of cypresses.

All are interspersed with excellent panels describing Van Gogh’s months in London and apt quotations from his letters home beautifully carved in stone. As he wrote: “There are lilacs and laburnums blossoming in all the gardens, and the chestnut trees are magnificent.” Although Van Gogh had not yet embarked on his quest to become an artist, he clearly appreciated nature in what was then the largest city on earth.

Van Gogh in London

The house where Van Gogh lodged in London, with its blue plaque.

The nearby house where Van Gogh lived, 87 Hackford Road, has a shiny blue plaque, but could do with a good lick of paint and more substantial restoration work. It was recently sold to a Chinese buyer who indicated his intention to turn it into a centre for art. I trust it will be spruced up soon.

Van Gogh was sacked from his London job, and went on to work as a lay preacher in Isleworth and as a teacher in Ramsgate, before returning to Holland where he began to study art. But his stay in London came at an impressionable age, and it was at Hackford Road that he fell for his landlady’s daughter, although the sentiment was not returned.

Since I visited the new Van Gogh Walk I’ve been delighted to see that it has been highly commended in the Living Streets awards. And it’s not just the street that merits an accolade. I was also taken by the clever bicycle hangers, for safe storage in an area where it’s often difficult to bring bikes inside.

Van Gogh in London

“Bicycle hangars”: what a great idea.

Hopefully Van Gogh Walk won’t just be a pretty spot to linger but may also inspire local people on art adventures of their own. After sitting beneath twisted olives branches you can follow the route Van Gogh walked every day to his Covent Garden workplace, but stop off at the National and Courtauld galleries instead and see how he interpreted these trees in paint.

LONDON SLANT: CANTERBURY TRAILS

It’s a centuries old tradition that come the warmer weather travellers set off from London for Canterbury. It was a rambling ride in Chaucer’s day. But thanks to the Mo Farah and Sarah Storey Javelin trains that zoom out of St Pancras, the journey now takes under an hour.

So, one bright Sunday morning I found myself sharing a southbound carriage with two young women on the Walk of Shame. Both were curled up asleep. Two pairs of sparkly, spiky heels formed a decorative arrangement on the table.

The conductor appeared and they confessed: “We have an issue”. Cue cleavage-waggling and an elaborate yarn about how they’d lost their tickets when some clothing went missing the previous night. Duly ejected at the next stop, they tottered off along the platform in their remaining party gear.

Our train plunged into the most beautiful bucolic scene: lush water meadows with cattle grazing among reeds and flowers. Eventually the towers of Canterbury Cathedral reared up behind, but the goal of my journey lay elsewhere. I’d come to see the newly refurbished Beaney House of Art & Knowledge—a rather academic name for a museum-cum-giant cabinet of curiosities that was huge fun to explore.

Beaney Canterbury

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury.

Beaney Canterbury

Inside the newly refurbished galleries.

A fanciful 1899 building on the High Street, The Beaney’s doors open to some wonderful paintings, ranging from old masters to contemporary works. But I was equally taken by more unexpected displays. I admired a mummified Egyptian cat, a stuffed armadillo, a Venus flower basket (the skeleton of a sponge) and ancient garnet brooches dug up when the building was restored.

Venus flower basket

One of many curios: the Venus flower basket, a sponge skeleton.

But what I most enjoyed was making the acquaintance of two eccentric Victorian gentleman travellers and the quirky treasures they brought back.

One, Stephen Lushington, was both MP for Canterbury and Governor of Madras. Jane Austen wrote of him: “He is quite an MP. I am rather in love with him. I dare say he is ambitious and insincere.” He returned home with a huge collection featuring a sword guard with a demon devouring an elephant and a mace decorated with intricate flowers.

And then there was the Reverend Henry Landsell, whose adventures took him across Asia during the 1870s. There are photographs of him posing in outrageous local costumes in Siberia and the Stans. From Kashgar he brought back a leather face slapper, captioned “for slapping naughty women’s faces in prisons”. From Burma came decorative objects ransacked from the Royal Palace of Mandalay. More practical were the embroidered trousers he bought in a Tashkent bazaar, which he found “warm and useful” when travelling by horse.

I could have spent hours sitting on the Beaney’s little portable stools, peering at every detail of these intriguing objects. But a late lunch called, so it was off to The Goods Shed, for melt-in-the-mouth roast beef and a vegetable platter. We sat at wooden tables on a dais above the farmer’s market in full swing to one side. I’m sure that every carrot, splash of oil and slice of bread came straight from the organic stalls busy with shoppers down below. Great atmosphere, great food.

The Goods Shed Restaurant

The Goods Shed Restaurant, close by Canterbury station.

As I sipped my locally brewed beer I suddenly remembered those two girls on the train. Were they still staggering back home on their stilettos? Or had they managed to bamboozle another ticket inspector with a more convincing Canterbury tale?

LONDON SLANT: A SERPENTINE MEANDER

The swallows have swooped in, roses have burst into flower—and the Serpentine Pavilion has sprouted in Kensington Gardens. There may be other signs to the contrary, but these three arrivals announce that summer, unequivocally, is here.

Serpentine pavilion

The Serpentine Pavilion: a dazzling addition to Kensington Gardens.

Anything involving London’s Serpentine Gallery is always an event. Its exhibitions invariably catch the zeitgeist: thought-provoking, off-piste, fun…I rarely regret the pilgrimage to check them out.

And what better advertisement hoarding could the gallery erect than its pavilions, temporary structures designed by international names which have popped up here every summer since 2000. Following a parade of wacky designs by starchitects like Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Oscar Niemeyer, for 2013 it’s the turn of a comparative unknown, Sou Fujimoto from Japan. Knowing the Serpentine’s knack for backing winners (I recall an exhibition years ago with a pickled sheep by a young artist called Damien Hirst) I think we can be assured that Fujimoto is One To Watch.

I like to use my annual pavilion foray as an excuse for a stroll through Hyde Park’s glorious swathe of green. This year I set off from Lancaster Gate and plunged straight into the freshly restored Italian Gardens. Their spouting fountains and urns with tumbling flowers made an exuberant start to my stroll.

Next landmark was the Henry Moore Arch, now happily back in place after it became unstable and was off show for 16 years. It looks terrific reflecting in the Serpentine, framing the vista towards Kensington Palace. Just beyond is The Magazine, an historic former munitions store, which is being transformed by Zaha Hadid into the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery. It’s due to open later this year with exhibition space and a cafe. Mark your cards for the opening now!

And so to Fujimoto’s pavilion, a non-building or at least one that seems to have vanished, leaving only its shimmering scaffolding behind. You can see it as many different forms: billowing mist, a mass of phone masts…but it struck me as a magical oversized child’s climbing frame. I’ve never seen so many grown-ups clambering around with such glee, beaming down from the highest points as if to say “I’m the king of the castle”. I stepped gingerly from one glass box to another, never sure whether I was planting my foot on thin air, and confess to feeling quite superior when I secured a lofty perch.

Rock on top of another rock

Rock on Top of Another Rock outside the Serpentine Gallery.

Rock on Top of Another Rock eventually drew me on my way. This teetering monument by artist duo Fischli/Weiss is so dramatic in this natural setting it’s a shame it will move on next March to the Middle East.

And so to a waterside coffee among yellow irises fringing the Lido as a bunch of swimmers battled the waves. And along the lake to The Dell and Rose Gardens, bursting with colour and scent. At Hyde Park corner my carriage awaited—on the Piccadilly line.

LONDON SLANT: POMPEII VERSUS DAVID BOWIE

This summer two “blockbuster” London exhibitions go head to head. In the first corner we have Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum. Opposite, across town at the V&A, we have David Bowie is…

Pompeii/Bowie

This season’s must-have coffee table ornaments: catalogues for David Bowie is… and Pompeii and Herculaneum

With 67,000 tickets pre-booked, Bowie has attracted more advance sales than any previous V&A show. Pompeii, which one reviewer even compared to the landmark 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition, has gone a step further with nearly 72,000 enthusiasts reserving slots before the opening day. What is it that’s got everyone scrambling to get in?

At first glance the two shows couldn’t be more different: the elegant, exquisitely presented British Museum exhibition versus Jean Genie and Rebel, Rebel pumping through headphones at the V&A.

But hang on a minute…

Going to the Pompeii show is like being invited to dinner at a Roman house minutes before Vesuvius starts to spew. Many of the exhibits are so intimate—a child’s wooden cradle charred by the heat, a table arrayed with trinkets to impress guests, a flask of the condiment du jour, fish sauce—you feel an instant bond with these people even though they lived in AD79. With the notable exception of a container to breed dormice for the cooking pot, the exhibits constantly remind you of how their lives resemble ours.

David Bowie

Origins of a legend: where Ziggy Stardust began.

The Bowie exhibition, too, is a walk-in scrapbook of minutiae that build into a living portrait of a time past. We have the pieces of paper that he scrawled his lyrics on and even a tissue with lipstick blotted from his lips. Of course there are the gorgeous costumes and enough high art (Die Brüke, Warhol and Gilbert and George) to elevate the show above the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. But I won’t forget the crowd of balding heads just inside the entrance completely spaced out by a video of Bowie playing Major Tom beneath a television shaped like a sputnik and an image of the moon. This is a snapshot of an era. And they were there.

Both shows still have months to run. You’ve seen the advance booking figures, but who will come out tops in the end? If the two venues want to really see visitor numbers skyrocket the British Museum could host evenings of drinks in the fabulous Roman garden they’ve created. (How about serving the favourite Pompeiian tipple of watered-down wine—perfect for these straitened times?) Meanwhile the V&A could deploy its Sennheiser headphones to run a silent disco among the vast screens pulsing with the Spiders from Mars.

Count me in.

LONDON SLANT: NEW AT KEW

No matter how many times I visit London’s Kew Gardens (and it’s a lot) every time I go I see something new. I never cease to be amazed at how somewhere so seemingly “natural” can be so innovative. But since Kew’s all about plant life tamed and put on show, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s so cutting-edge.

Orchids at Kew

Part of a fabulous wall of orchids at Kew.

I always try to catch the annual Orchid Festival, and last week provided the perfect day for this eye-popping adventure. The sun streamed into the Princess of Wales Conservatory, lighting up walls and giant bowls dripping exotic blooms. I loved the columns of vibrant colour reflected in the central pool and archways draped in flowers.

Orchids at Kew

Orchids in and around the pool at the Princess of Wales Conservatory, Kew.

The petal paparazzi were out in force, snapping away as these showy stars strutted their stuff, flaunting their finery full force. Outside the conservatory though, nodding in the shade, much more modest flowers were also causing a stir. There may still be a nip in the air, but spring is coming and snowdrops, crocuses and even a few camellias are starting to appear.

Snowdrops and sculpture at Kew

The alien has landed: a scattering of snowdrops and looming David Nash Black Sphere sculpture at Kew.

This leads us gently into the other excitement of my visit: David Nash’s extraordinary sculptures, artfully positioned around the grounds. Nash has been doing amazing things with wood in general and whole tree trunks in particular for 40 years. He was recently invited to create new works from wood available from Kew’s tree management programme to display around the grounds alongside other pieces from his long career. One of the most exciting aspects of this show is how it makes you look at Kew’s living trees in a different, more detailed way, as if they, too, are works of art.

David Nash sculptures at Kew

Scuttlers: A David Nash sculpture on show near his outdoor studio at Kew where it was created.

In addition to works around the grounds, there are dramatic pieces in Kew’s elegant buildings. They look particularly striking among the lush foliage of the Temperate House where, as Nash says: “The exciting thing for me is to see my works in the jungle. To put them among plants, which is where they come from”.

David Nash sculpture at Kew

David Nash’s Throne in the Temperate House.

David Nash sculpture at Kew

A flame-like cone of cork bark in a Kew conservatory

A pyramid of cork bark looks terrific in an otherwise empty conservatory and there’s a fascinating display of smaller pieces in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. The gallery also details the evolution of Nash’s career and includes photographs of other site-specific works, including a circle of living trees which the artist has bent inward to interweave and form Ash Dome.

David Nash sculptures at Kew

Clams? Magritte-like bells? These strange shapes seem to float in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

The last thing I expected to do on a sunny day at Kew was to sit and watch a film, but I was totally riveted by Wooden Boulder, the story of a huge “rock” that Nash carved from a tree on a remote hilltop in Wales in 1978. Beginning with still photographs and developing into an exquisitely shot art film, it relates how Nash cut the huge slab of wood, tried but failed to move it downhill, how storms eventually did the job for him and how by 2003 it had reached a river and was washed out to sea. The tale began with grainy snaps of a young man in flared trousers desperately trying to dislodge this giant piece of wood and ended with beautiful – yet rather humorous – footage of his boulder bobbing on the waves of a vast seascape. It’s a wonderful comment on the artist and his life.

Orchids at Kew, until 3 March. David Nash at Kew, until 14 April.

There’s an excellent catalogue, David Nash at Kew Gardens, to accompany the show, as well as an iPad app.

LONDON SLANT: LIGHT SHOW – JUST GO

“The artwork is designed to stimulate the senses. If at any stage you feel uncomfortable PLEASE LEAVE THE SPACE.” Having read this notice you can imagine that I couldn’t wait to pull back the black curtain and go inside. But as this was the last of the 25 works in the London Hayward Gallery’s stunning Light Show, let’s return to it later.

This new, incandescent exhibition has quite appropriately, spawned glowing reviews. So much so that on the Sunday I visited advance tickets had all sold out. The swell of visitors means you really need a game plan: get there at the 10am opening time and head straight to James Turrell’s Wedgework V. Here you can sit and ponder the angry crimson rectangle projected at an angle onto a wall, with blueish light suggestive of an unreachable exit on the far edge. After this, you should nip up the stairs and into the mirrored, light-studded “phonebox” that is Ivan Navarro’s Reality Show. Having got ahead of the queues at both of these installations, you can return to the beginning of the show and amble through the remaining works.

Light Show at Hayward Gallery

Chromosaturation by Carlos Cruz-Diez: three rooms lit blue, red and green trick the eyes and mind.

Full marks to the curators. Every single item on show is either scintillating or stimulating – and usually both. I can’t remember ever getting into so many conversations with strangers in an art gallery, but these works prompt you to interact and exclaim, as did one toddler who came flailing towards me: “Awesome!”

You and I Horizontal by Anthony McCall: step among rotating beams that seem solid enough to touch. Photo by Linda Nylind.

You and I, Horizontal by Anthony McCall: step among rotating beams that seem solid enough to touch.

Works I especially enjoyed were Anthony McCall’s You and I, Horizontal, a dark, disorientating, haze-filled room shot with rotating beams of white light. Despite being mere projections, they seemed sufficiently solid as to pierce and break. I also lingered in Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation: three white spaces with lights coloured blue, red and green that created extraordinary visual effects both individually and where they met. They couldn’t express more clearly how light can trick the brain to see what isn’t there.

David Batchelor's Magic Hour uses lightboxes to capture the look and atmosphere of a city at sunset.Photo by Linda Nylind.

David Batchelor’s Magic Hour uses lightboxes to capture the look and atmosphere of a city at sunset.

I could go on, but let’s skip to that last room: Model for a Timeless Garden by Olafur Eliasson, creator of the hugely successful Weather Project giant sun at Tate Modern some years back. Here at the Hayward, strobe lights and a soundtrack create a magical, sparkling garden scene, that I won’t describe in more detail because you’ve got to go – and be amazed.

Until 28 April. Adult tickets: £11.

Photographs by Linda Nyland:

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation (1965-2013) ©the artist/DACS,Cruz-Diez Foundation.

Iván Navarro, Reality Show (2010),©the artist, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.

Anthony McCall,You and I, Horizontal (2005), ©the artist courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers Berlin London.